Semiconductor firm Applied Materials puts supply chain at center of new commitments

July 28, 2020 by  
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Semiconductor firm Applied Materials puts supply chain at center of new commitments Heather Clancy Tue, 07/28/2020 – 02:00 The sustainability ambitions of the world’s largest cloud software companies — Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Salesforce — have been well-documented. The broad semiconductor industry’s position to date, however, has been less transparent and less ambitious, with the highly visible exceptions of AMD, IBM and Intel.  That stance is shifting, as the sector contemplates the explosive growth projections for connected computing devices, including sensors, smartphones, tablet computers and personal computers, not to mention the massive server hardware needed to process artificial intelligence algorithms.  By 2030, there could be a half-trillion such devices “at the edge” of the digital networks driving business innovation around the planet, Applied Material President and CEO Gary Dickerson noted last week in a keynote address during a virtual edition of the industry’s annual conference, SEMICon West .  The association behind the gathering, SEMI , projects semiconductor revenue could reach $1 trillion by that same timeframe, more than double last year’s sales of about $470 billion. It previously took 20 years for the industry to double in size.  The big question for the sector at large and Applied Materials specifically, Dickerson said, is how to support accelerating growth without dramatically increasing the industrywide carbon footprint associated with creating all those components — currently estimated at 50 million metric tons of CO2 annually across more than 1,000 fabrication facilities worldwide (a.k.a. “fabs”).  We are going to hold our supply chain to the same standards that we hold ourselves in the areas of environmental impact, labor standards, and diversity and inclusion. “I’ve been amazed at the increasing amount of power required to manufacture these ever-smaller chips, and I would join with others in encouraging all of the equipment manufacturers to work together to reduce carbon emissions in the manufacturing of these advanced semiconductors and finally continue decarbonizing the power supply on which the data centers operate,” former Vice President Al Gore  told me last week , when I asked him how the semiconductor industry could step up. Applied, which specializes in materials engineering, sells equipment and services used in the production of virtually every new chip and advanced display in the world. It generated more than $14.6 billion in annual revenue in 2019, and Dickerson estimated its Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions — mainly from the power used to run its labs and factories — was the equivalent of 145,000 metric tons of CO2 in 2019. (Disclosure: Al Gore’s investment firm, Generation Investment Management, holds a position in the company. Applied was responsible for my invitation to lead an interview with Gore last week during the same conference.) “The first thing we need to do is decouple our growth from our environmental impact,” Dickerson noted. “If we double or triple the size of our company, it would be irresponsible to double or triple our carbon footprint!” That conviction resulted in the company’s decision to adopt a series of new policies designed to shore up its environmental, social and governance (ESG) story, including a commitment to use 100 percent renewable energy worldwide by 2030 (by 2022 for its U.S. operations) and to cut its Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions by 50 percent over the next decade. Moreover, Applied has created a sweeping new initiative intended to bring other companies in the semiconductor supply chain along for the ride. “We are going to hold our supply chain to the same standards that we hold ourselves in the areas of environmental impact, labor standards, and diversity and inclusion,” Dickerson said. “We’re introducing a sustainability scorecard into our supply selection process, alongside our traditional metrics for performance, cost and quality.” Making improvements of this magnitude and — at the same time — driving the technology roadmap forward is not easy and requires deep partnerships with customers. The new program, SuCCESS2030 (short for Supply Chain Certification for Environmental and Social Responsibility) will extend to all aspects of Applied’s operations, from procurement to packaging. It will now require these shared commitments from its suppliers, according to the press release about the program: A shift to intermodal shipping to reduce the industry’s reliance on air freight, aiming for an interim emissions reduction of 15 percent by 2024. A transition to recycled content packaging, with a target of 80 percent of such materials within three years. The complete elimination of phosphate-based pretreatments for metal surfaces within four years. The creation of a diversity and inclusion strategy to increase Applied’s spend with minority- and women-owned businesses by the same time frame. (There is no disclosed percentage for this goal.) “The response has been great, and we have six key partner suppliers already signed up to help us kick off this program,” Dickerson said. Those companies are Advanced Energy, Benchmark Electronics, Foxsemicon Integrated Technology, NGK Insulators, Ultra Clean Holding and VAT. Technically, Applied doesn’t yet have an official emissions reduction target in place for its Scope 3 footprint, but the company has joined the Science Based Targets initiative with the intention of doing so within two years, according to Dickerson. To improve its own competitive story with customers, Applied will use risk scenario analysis recommendations from the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures, and it has adopted a new “ecoUP” policy that includes a “3 by 30” goal for improvements in its own manufacturing systems on a per-wafer basis: a 30 percent reduction in energy consumption, a 30 percent cut in chemical consumption and a 30 percent increase in “throughput density,” the number of wafers that can be produced per square foot of cleanroom space. “Making improvements of this magnitude and, at the same time, driving the technology roadmap forward is not easy and requires deep partnerships with customers,” Dickerson said. Among those actively working with Applied on the new approach include Intel and Micro Technology, which is stepping up its own commitments. The latter intends to dedicate 2 percent of its annual capital expenditures over the next five to seven years — about $1 billion — on environmental and social stewardship.  Pull Quote We are going to hold our supply chain to the same standards that we hold ourselves in the areas of environmental impact, labor standards, and diversity and inclusion. Making improvements of this magnitude and — at the same time — driving the technology roadmap forward is not easy and requires deep partnerships with customers. Topics Information Technology Corporate Strategy Technology Manufacturing Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Courtesy of Applied Materials Close Authorship

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Semiconductor firm Applied Materials puts supply chain at center of new commitments

How Cargill’s new science-based water targets go with the flow

July 27, 2020 by  
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How Cargill’s new science-based water targets go with the flow Joel Makower Mon, 07/27/2020 – 02:11 Cargill, the giant food and ag conglomerate, last week announced a new set of 2030 corporate water targets, the latest to do so among firms in its sector. But this was no me-too kind of endeavor. Rather, it put the company at the front of the pack, going well beyond its own operational footprint to engage its entire supply chain, and to do so using a novel science-based approach for water. Specifically, Cargill said that by the end of the decade it would restore about 158 billion gallons of water, reduce about 5,500 tons of water pollutants and boost access to safe drinking water — all in what it refers to as  priority watersheds , regions around the world where the company has a significant operational or supply-chain water footprint.  This isn’t small potatoes. Agriculture represents about 80 percent of freshwater use in the United States and about 70 percent globally. Ag also is a major contributor both to water pollution and climate change; the water sector, which includes the collection and treatment of wastewater, accounts for 4 percent of total global electricity consumption,  according to the International Energy Agency . Few food and ag companies have taken on the full measure of their water footprint the way Cargill seems to have done, and by using a science-based approach. “If there’s a more robust enterprise level ambition for water, I haven’t seen it,” said Jason Morrison, CEO of the Pacific Institute and head of the United Nations  CEO Water Mandate , who advised on the project. “This is a really impressive piece of work that they’ve done and a pretty ambitious commitment they’re making. It’s got a lot to it.” If there’s a more robust enterprise level ambition for water, I haven’t seen it. Cargill has made water commitments in the past, but they covered only the company’s direct operations, a relative drop in the bucket of the water needed to bring to market the $114 billion or so of products and services it sells each year. About a year ago, the company set out on a journey to understand its water risks relative to its supply chain and operations, explained Jill Kolling, the company’s vice president for global sustainability. “Where does water really matter for us in our business?” she explained to me recently. “And where should we really be putting our efforts?” The goal, she said, “was to come out of this and have some aspirational goals to work against and also to make sure we’re working where it matters most. So, having that strong prioritization, backed up by science.” Science-based targets have become de rigueur in setting corporate greenhouse gas commitments. In effect, they ask what level of carbon reductions represents a company’s fair share, given its contribution to the climate problem. It was inevitable that this approach eventually be applied to water. Indeed, for the past two years a group called the Science-Based Targets Network has been looking at how to apply such methodologies to  a range of environmental impacts , including  water . But water is unlike climate gases in several fundamental ways. First, water is inherently local, with droughts in some areas and a surfeit in others. With climate gases, any improvement anywhere in the world helps alleviate the global problem; not so with water. Water is also temporal, with conditions changing throughout the year and from year to year, based on both normal and abnormal climatic shifts. And while the aggregate amount of available water is important, so is its quality. Having millions of gallons of water isn’t helpful if it is toxic, brackish or otherwise unsuited for human use. Rivers of data In the case of Cargill, these and other factors were applied not just to its own operation, but also to its more than 250,000 suppliers, ranging from multinational corporations to single-family farms in developing nations. They provide the raw materials for everything from cocoa and cotton to salmon feed and sweeteners. Cargill already had dipped its toes into water issues. It has invested in such programs as the  Soil and Water Outcomes Fund , which helps farmers adopt soil health and water conservation practices. It also participates in the  Midwest Row Crop Collaborative’s efforts to support and accelerate sustainable agricultural practices in Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska, including on improving water quality across the Upper Mississippi River Basin, which supports nearly 44 percent of U.S. corn, soy and wheat production. Still another Cargill initiative is  BeefUp Sustainability , which focuses in part on restoring grasslands, which perform many ecosystem services including filtering water. To develop its latest commitments, the company turned to World Resources Institute, with which it had previously worked on water issues. The first step was to aggregate the data Cargill needed to prioritize locally relevant decisions. “We’ve got  globally comparable data on water risks that we help companies leverage in order to look at water risks to their supply chain, and now increasingly use that same data to help think through what an effective science-based target could look like,” Sara Walker, WRI’s senior manager, water quality and agriculture, told me. “They’re kind of our science partner,” Kolling said of WRI. “What they bring to the table is datasets, tools and scientists who are able to help do the analysis. It’s also good to have an NGO partner working with you to push you to be more aspirational. They’ve provided tremendous guidance through this.” “There’s quite a lot of good data out there,” explained Truke Smoor, director of water at Cargill. “But if you look at the number of companies who have said they want data for water quality and costs, for both operations and the supply chain, you see there are very few.”  600 billion liters — it’s insanely large. It’s more than the total amount of water that we use in all our operations.   That may be in large part because the available data isn’t always consistent across watersheds and borders. Smoor said that Cargill ended up “combining a global data set with a better data set for the U.S. to meet our needs. And now we have the data we need to help us prioritize.” The commitments Cargill settled on were stretch goals, Smoor said. For example: “Six hundred billion liters — it’s insanely large. It’s more than the total amount of water that we use in all our operations. So, we’re basically offsetting double our total water use in those priority water systems in the regions where it’s needed most.” Down on the farm In some ways, getting the data was the easy part. Working with farmers — from Big Ag behemoths to smallholders in far-flung economies — is another matter. Promoting change can be hard work, although some farmers are beginning to realize the need to adapt new kinds of practices to ensure the long-term viability of local water supplies. “I think farmers are starting to realize that it’s ultimately the consumer who’s starting to care more and more about this,” Kolling said. “Over the coming years, those pressures and those desires from consumers to want to know more about how their food was produced and having greater expectations, we believe it’s going to grow and will continue to trickle back to the farmer. I think some of those more resistant farmers may realize that this is the way things are going.” Most farmers aren’t yet feeling those market impacts, she said, but there are other compelling arguments for their linking arms with Cargill on water. “At the end of the day, farmers are businessmen and women,” Kolling said. Toward that end, her company is helping farmers understand the business case today for improving water management practices, ranging from improving soil health to ensuring community water supplies. “It helps us make the change we want to make for the environment and for social and economic reasons.” And, of course, there’s climate change. Specifically, its relationship to both water quality and quantity, as well as the role of farming in sequestering carbon dioxide, which, in turn, improves soil health. “Water is so critical for nature, for agriculture, for communities,” Smoor said. “And it has that synergies with climate change.”  For example, she said, “Look at soil health practices. They help in carbon sequestration and they help in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. That is tied to fertilizer use, water quality and runoff. So, soil health practices provide water quality benefits. And through increasing soil moisture, we actually make sure that more water can recharge, so you have improved water availability. They really go hand in hand, which is such a powerful thing. Through combining these, you have so many touchpoints, whether it’s through farmers or regulators or the community.” Pooling resources As with every sustainability issue, one company’s leadership action is but a start. It will take collective action to achieve global goals, but also to ensure each company’s efforts aren’t undermined. For example, Cargill’s water conservation efforts in a particular basin may be for naught if other companies, large or small, aren’t similarly engaged there. In April, Cargill  announced that it would contribute $2 million to the next phase of its partnership with WRI. The two entities said they will combine their expertise to accelerate the development and improvement of tools, including a new Water Management Toolkit, to enable companies to set science-based targets for water. The toolkit “will allow us to address shared water challenges and promote sustainable water use within planetary boundaries across the industry,” they said in a statement. Cargill is already making its methodology publicly available. “We’re hoping we can invite others — customers, competitors, whomever — to collaborate with us where their sourcing and focus may intersect with our same watersheds,” Smoor said. But companies seem to be uncertain about when to jump into the pool. “We’re getting a lot of questions from companies like, ‘Should I wait for better data or should I wait for the Science-Based Target Network to tell me what exactly to do?’” WRI’s Walker said. “We’re really trying to encourage companies to act now. I think Cargill is a good example of this.” On the other hand, Smoor said, companies can wait until — some day. “You can continue to analyze everything forever, and especially in water, with all the different aspects. You can get stuck in risk analysis. You can get stuck in needing better data. Our approach is, we’re starting now; we’re going to drive the change. We will validate if we are doing the right thing.” I invite you to  follow me on Twitter , subscribe to my Monday morning newsletter,  GreenBuzz , and listen to  GreenBiz 350 , my weekly podcast, co-hosted with Heather Clancy. Pull Quote If there’s a more robust enterprise level ambition for water, I haven’t seen it. 600 billion liters — it’s insanely large. It’s more than the total amount of water that we use in all our operations. Topics Food & Agriculture Water Efficiency & Conservation Science-based Targets Featured Column Two Steps Forward Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock

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How Cargill’s new science-based water targets go with the flow

What makes Al Gore hopeful: Tech innovation, science-based targets and the racial ‘awakening’

July 22, 2020 by  
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What makes Al Gore hopeful: Tech innovation, science-based targets and the racial ‘awakening’ Heather Clancy Wed, 07/22/2020 – 02:00 Who is responsible for emissions? Where did they originate? How can we be sure? A global coalition fronted by former Vice President Al Gore promises granular insights and data into those sources — down to individual power plants, ships or factories. Climate TRACE (short for Tracking Real-time Atmospheric Carbon Emissions) intends to use a massive worldwide network of satellite images, land- and sea-based sensors and advanced artificial intelligence to generate what it’s describing as the “most thorough and reliable data on emissions the world has ever seen.” The long lag it takes to calculate this information today is untenable if countries and the corporate sector hope to act quickly, the group wrote  in a blog about the initiative, co-authored by Gore and Gavin McCormick, founder and executive director of coalition member WattTime. “From companies looking to select cleaner manufacturing suppliers, to investors seeking to divest from polluting industries, to consumers making choices about which businesses to patronize, one thing is clear: a reliable way to measure where emissions are coming from is necessary,” they wrote. “Climate TRACE will empower all of these actors.”  Some of the innovation around new materials has been particularly impressive to me, materials like silicon carbide. Climate TRACE is just the latest example of the former vice president’s decades-long commitment to educating the world about the climate crisis, through The Climate Reality Project, and to investing in technologies and solutions that could address it, through Generation Investment Manager.  Emissions monitoring using advanced technologies is something all members of the coalition have been working on for some time, but breakthroughs in software and processing technologies — as well as the will to take action more quickly than mid-decade — prompted the coalition members to step forward with the goal of making its first report before the United Nations COP26 conference in 2021. Candidly, Gore is the reason I’m on the corporate climate beat, so I was inspired by the invitation to interview him as a virtual keynote session for SEMICON West , a conference focused on members of the semiconductor industry. “There are real indications that this COVID-19 pandemic has actually accelerated the shift toward more sustainable technologies and as much as anything else, I would say there has been a very dramatic change in attitudes,” Gore told me at the beginning of our chat, prerecorded before the Climate TRACE announcement.   To be clear, the data isn’t encouraging. As Gore related during our conversation, 19 of the 20 hottest years “ever measured with instruments” have been in the last 20 years — and 2020 is on pace to dethrone the current record holder for hottest year on record. What’s more, Gore observes that we’re still emitting 152 million tons of heat-trapping pollution into the atmosphere every 24 hours. The consequences of that imbalance are felt in water cycle disruptions, sea-level rises, far stronger storms and the spread of tropical diseases northward, he noted. “It’s a real horror story and since our civilization has been built up almost entirely during this climate envelope, if you will, that has persisted since the end of the last ice age, the fact that we’re changing those conditions so radically poses an existential threat to the survival of human civilization as we know it.” But advances in processing, communications and data analysis technologies give Gore hope that humans still can take meaningful action, especially with new resolve and urgency borne out of the COVID-19 crisis, Gore told me. “This can be the stimulus we need for sustainable prosperity in the wake of the pandemic as we finally come out of it, so it’s so important that this tremendous industry has awakened to this challenge and is providing tremendous leadership,” he said.   Following is a partial transcript of our conversation, which picks up after Gore’s opening remarks. The comments were edited for clarity and length.  Heather Clancy: Do you see any long-term changes emanating from the COVD-19 crisis that could help the world deliver a zero-carbon future? Are there nuggets of hope in the response that you can point to specifically? Gore:   Well, you have to go country by country, and I don’t want to dwell too much on the response here in the United States right now. I’m a recovering politician, and I don’t want to stray back into that field. The longer I go without a relapse, the less likely one becomes. But you can find examples of hope and optimism in many country’s response to the pandemic and their success should be emulated elsewhere. I’ll leave it at that. But there are many realizations that are coming from this. We now know that the burning of fossil fuels is a precondition for higher mortality rates under COVID-19. There was a study of 324 cities in China showing a linear correlation between the infection rate and the death rate from COVID-19 compared to the amount of fossil fuels burned in those locations. A Harvard study showed the same thing here in the U.S. and even if you go back to the 1918-1919 [flu] pandemic, there was a very thorough study just 18 months ago showing that the amount of coal burned in cities throughout the U.S., again, was correlated precisely with the death rate from the great flu pandemic a little over 100 years ago. There is a lot of scholarship on how diversity in crowds, if it’s properly appreciated and tapped into, can make any group and any company way smarter than the smartest person in that company. Now we’ve already also seen with COVID-19 a rapid reduction in travel and an increase in working from home and I’m sure many of the people listening to us, Heather, have had the same experience I know you and I have had. That is thinking, “Wow, this stuff works pretty well. Maybe we don’t have to make all of those airplane flights that we have been chained to for all this time,’” and there are many other examples. There are real indications that this COVID-19 pandemic has actually accelerated the shift toward more sustainable technologies and as much as anything else, I would say there has been a very dramatic change in attitudes. I don’t want to sound Pollyannish, but I really believe there has been a kind of a general awakening.  The gains from the LGBTQ community of the last several years are being consolidated. The gains demanded in gender equity over the last several years are also being consolidated, and I think, again, the shocking new awareness on the part of so many of the inequities and injustices that communities of color have been experiencing for a lot of reasons. I mean, they are much more likely to be downwind from the smokestacks and downstream from the hazardous waste flows, but they also have much less access to quality healthcare. Their housing, by and large, is not the same. They don’t have the Zoom-able jobs like we do right now on average. Incomes, I mean, it takes 11.5 typical Black families, average Black families to make up the net worth of one white family, average white family in the U.S. and these statistics have remained unchanged for 50 years. We’ve got to change that, and I think there is a general increase in awareness, an awakening if you will. One jokester called it The Great Awokening. I don’t think I’ll use that phrase as my own, but I do think there is something to it. I think that the rising generation is demanding a better future, and if they knew all that you have planned and underway in this industry, they would feel so good about it. I’m going to do my part to make sure they do find out about it. Clancy: What foundational technologies do you see coming out of this moment of destruction that could really make an impact? And let’s go to the semiconductor industry. What positive developments do you see happening where they could really make a difference? Gore: Some of the innovation around new materials has been particularly impressive to me, materials like silicon carbide … These have been already essential in, well, take increasing the range of Tesla’s electric vehicles and actually that’s another mark of the change. Tesla just became the most valuable automobile company in the world, surpassing Toyota. That’s pretty impressive.  I’ll mention one more: Innovations around how semiconductors are packaged, that’s also been a prominent trend and essential in enabling the next generation of algorithms which power things like drug discovery, which has got our attention right now, and smart electricity grids which are much more power efficient. Environmental leader Al Gore. Clancy: What could get in the way of these advances? What concerns should the industry have from an environmental standpoint as they take these to the mainstream? Gore: Well, we are seeing a challenge to the efficacy of self-government. I don’t want to sound too highfalutin on this, but really here in the U.S., we have seen what can stand in our way when we pretty much know what to do and we just have to get our act together and think and act collectively to do it and when we let partisanship get out of bounds and when we don’t accept the authority of knowledge, when we tolerate an assault on reason and when we allow powerful players in the economy to embark on information strategies that are intended to put out wrong facts. I started to say alternative facts but, again, I don’t want to trip over all of those controversies. But it is a problem, seriously, and we have seen that spread to some other countries like Brazil and the Philippines and Hungary, not to mention Russia. Democracy itself is the most efficient way of making collective decisions because it allows us to harvest the wisdom of crowds. There is a lot of scholarship on how diversity in crowds, if it’s properly appreciated and tapped into, can make any group and any company way smarter than the smartest person in that company. So I do believe that we are seeing a number of positive developments, and I do have a lot of confidence in this rising generation that is insisting that we get on with these solutions. Clancy: You referenced data centers and cloud computing services earlier, particularly for enabling things like artificial intelligence — which we need for drug discovery, we need for so many things, so many applications related to conservation and climate change. But these things use a lot of electricity. How can the tech industry address this? Gore:  New technologies, innovation efficiency — including some of the new developments that I’ve already mentioned — will help, but we’ve got to go into this with our eyes wide open. Applied Materials has told us that, has told the world that their studies indicate that we could actually see a very large increase in the amount of energy used for information processing and that makes this challenge even more urgent. But I do continue to be optimistic, very optimistic on the ability of this industry to rise to the challenge and there are some things the industry could do, and I know some of these have been discussed.  First of all, collaborate across the industry from semiconductor equipment makers to software companies with academia to think about how to deliver a step change in the efficiency of data center semiconductors. It’s been encouraging already to see cutting-edge applications of artificial intelligence to effectively reduce data server energy use by significant amounts without any changes to hardware. I’ve been following for a few years now Google’s use of its DeepMind Division to dramatically reduce energy use in server farms, again, without any new hardware. That’s awfully impressive… Now they had the advantage of a lot of structured data to work with. They’re Google, after all, so they got a lot of structured data but there are thousands of use cases where that same approach can also be used.  Secondly, reduce the electricity required to manufacture semiconductors. I’ve been amazed at the increasing amount of power required to manufacture these ever-smaller chips, and I would join with others in encouraging all of the equipment manufacturers to work together to reduce carbon emissions in the manufacturing of these advanced semiconductors and finally continue decarbonizing the power supply on which the data centers operate… Clancy: I want to go back to something you referenced in your opening remarks, which is the environmental justice issue. It’s well-documented that climate change has a disproportionate impact on communities of color. How can the tech industry act internally and externally to change this to get rid of that digital divide that prevents progress? Gore: Well, I think first of all, this awakening that I talked about has affected people in the semiconductor industry. You look at these protest marches around the U.S. The vast majority of those marching are white and two-thirds of the American people now say they support the Black Lives Matter movement, a dramatic change compared to just two months ago. And, of course, George Floyd’s murder was a turning point but it’s also reflective of the changes that we have seen more broadly in our society. I mentioned already the fact that the communities of color are suffering disproportionately from COVID-19, and there are many reasons for it. But it’s wise for every industry, particularly a cutting-edge industry like this one, to respond very effectively to the rising demands from two groups.  First, younger employees who want their work to have meaning. Many of the executives listening to us have already long since learned that when they interview the best and brightest to join their firms, they find that the job applicants are interviewing them. They want to know whether or not the company shares their views on sustainability and shares their views on diversity. I think that the Science Based Targets initiative is a particularly important initiative that can make a tremendous difference, and I want to commend the leaders in this industry who have taken that step. And, by the way, I mentioned the wisdom of crowds earlier. I don’t want to emphasize it too much, but we’ve studied that a lot at Generation, and the scholars tell us and the evidence proves that you benefit tremendously in your collective thinking from as much diversity as possible on every matrix except one.  You don’t want any diversity on values. But then if you have different life experiences, different points of view, different religious traditions, different ethnicities and all of the rest orientations, that adds to the ability of any company to make better collective decisions. And so for the tech industry, specifically, it’s long been known that this industry has work to do in order to deal with the struggle to become more racially and culturally diverse. We’ve seen software companies make some very encouraging efforts to broaden their hiring funnels through apprenticeships and scholarships, but that could probably be increased in the semiconductor industry also. Clancy: Speed is of the essence in the fight against the climate crisis. How can the tech industry and the government work together maybe like in the area of research and development but also more broadly to make the most of this moment? Gore: Well, I think that the Science Based Targets initiative is a particularly important initiative that can make a tremendous difference, and I want to commend the leaders in this industry who have taken that step. I want to encourage others to adopt and embrace a science-based target to make sure that their activities and their emissions reductions plans are in keeping with what the global scientific community, the [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] says is necessary to stay below a 1.5-degree Celsius increase in temperatures. Look, this is an existential threat to our society, and I know I’ve used that phrase, but we’ve got to accept that and we have got to take leadership and make sure that we’re doing everything we can. It’s just unbearable to imagine a future generation living with the kinds of consequences the scientists tell us would ensue if we don’t solve this crisis. And imagine them looking back at us in the year 2020 and asking, “Why in the hell didn’t you do something about it? Didn’t you hear the scientists? Couldn’t you hear Mother Nature screaming at you?”  Every night on the TV news is like a nature hike through the Book of Revelation, practically. We’re appropriately focused on the pandemic now, but even now we’re seeing these extreme weather events and the increasingly dire forecasts from the scientists. So I’m encouraged by this industry, and I think that the science-based targets approach is a really great step, and I’d encourage everybody to adopt them. Pull Quote Some of the innovation around new materials has been particularly impressive to me, materials like silicon carbide. I think that the Science Based Targets initiative is a particularly important initiative that can make a tremendous difference, and I want to commend the leaders in this industry who have taken that step. There is a lot of scholarship on how diversity in crowds, if it’s properly appreciated and tapped into, can make any group and any company way smarter than the smartest person in that company. Topics Climate Change Innovation Social Justice Technology Racial Justice Collective Insight The GreenBiz Interview Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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What makes Al Gore hopeful: Tech innovation, science-based targets and the racial ‘awakening’

New biodegradable semiconductor could make e-waste a thing of the past

May 8, 2017 by  
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50 million tons of electronics are expected to be trashed this year, according to a United Nations Environment Program report . A Stanford University team was concerned over the escalating epidemic of e-waste , so they created a semiconductor – a component in most of our electronics – that can actually be broken down with a weak acid such as vinegar. Nine Stanford researchers, joined by one scientist from Hewlett Packard Labs and two engineers from the University of California, Santa Barbara , set out to rethink electronics. Engineer Zhenan Bao, who heads up the Bao Research Group at Stanford, said they found inspiration from human skin . Skin stretches, can heal itself, and is ultimately biodegradable . The researchers wanted to take these characteristics and apply them to electronics. Related: INFOGRAPHIC: The dangerous untold story of e-waste They created a flexible polymer able to decompose. Postdoctoral fellow Ting Lei said it’s the first ever “semiconductive polymer that can decompose.” But that’s just one part of a semiconductor. The team also designed a degradable electronic circuit and a biodegradable substrate material. They used iron – a nontoxic, environmentally friendly product – instead of the gold usually used for electronic components. They made a paper-like substrate with cellulose ; the transparent substrate allows the semiconductor to adhere to rough or smooth surfaces, like onto an avocado as seen in the picture above or on human skin. The semiconductor could even be implanted inside a body. According to Stanford, “When the electronic device is no longer needed, the whole thing can biodegrade into nontoxic components.” The team envisions a number of uses for their semiconductors, like in wearable electronics . They could be made into patches allowing people to track their blood pressure, for example, or could be dropped via plane into a forest to survey the landscape, and eventually they would biodegrade instead of littering the environment . The journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America published the research online the beginning of May. Via Stanford University and New Atlas Images via Stanford University/Bao lab

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New biodegradable semiconductor could make e-waste a thing of the past

Airtight prefab House in the Woods pops up in just ten days

May 8, 2017 by  
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Airtightness , minimal site disturbance, and speedy construction are just a few benefits of the striking House in the Woods. Designed by London-based architecture firm alma-nac , this prefabricated timber home is nestled within a particularly beautiful wooded lot in England’s South Downs National Park. Constructed from structural insulated panels (SIPs), the fully insulated, watertight building frame was erected in a speedy ten days. House in the Woods was built to replace a bungalow that had been in the family for over sixty years. Despite the new home’s contemporary appearance, the design pays homage to its traditional predecessor with its single-story dual-pitched appearance and occupies roughly the same 240-square-meter footprint. Ample glazing and large sliding doors connect the home with the landscape while a large deck and roof terrace extend living spaces to the outdoors. Related: Ancient Party Barn blends historic preservation with energy-smart design The adaptable interior can accommodate up to ten people in five bedrooms thanks to full-height sliding partitions . When not in use by guests, the home can be comfortably transformed to a one-bedroom home with a studio and study. Heat zoning allows for areas of the home to be controlled independently to minimize energy loss. Energy efficiency is further improved thanks to SIPs construction with rigid insulating lining that offer high levels of thermal efficiency and air tightness. + alma-nac Via ArchDaily Images © Jack Hobhouse

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Airtight prefab House in the Woods pops up in just ten days

‘Artificial leaf’ technology can cleanly produce hydrogen fuel

December 9, 2014 by  
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Researchers Peidong Yang, Bin Liu and colleagues may have found a way to mimic plants’ ability to produce hydrogen from sunlight . Yang’s team has used a process borrowed from the paper industry to create a flat mesh from light-absorbing semiconductor nanowires. When it contacts sunlight and water, it produces hydrogen gas—and apparently cheaply enough that the process could be quickly scaled. The technology also wouldn’t require any extra wires or devices—making it low-impact on the environment. Related: Artificial Leaf Can Make Oxygen in Space with Water and Light Missing Attachment Missing Attachment Read the rest of ‘Artificial leaf’ technology can cleanly produce hydrogen fuel Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: “clean energy” , artificial leaf , green energy , hydrogen fuel cell vehicle , hydrogen power , inorganic semiconductor nanowire mesh , nanowires

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‘Artificial leaf’ technology can cleanly produce hydrogen fuel

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