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Green Opportunity is About Strategy...About Everything a Company Does

Esty co-author "Green to Gold – How Smart Companies use Environmental Strategy to Innovate, Create Value, and Build Competitive Advantage" Spoke at SemiCon West 2007

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solar earth sun This overview of the semiconductor industry provides an informative overview of how green concepts are changing business not only in the computer industry, but across many other business sectors.

Being Green is Strategic, not Tactical

The entire value chain in the semiconductor industry – including tools and materials – prides itself on innovation, attracting top talent, and offering solutions to customer problems. Daniel C. Esty, a Yale professor and co-author of the best-selling "Green to Gold – How Smart Companies use Environmental Strategy to Innovate, Create Value, and Build Competitive Advantage" shared his insights with senior EHS executives and managers at the SEMI EHS Executive Luncheon on Tuesday, July 17 2007 at SEMICON West, and he noted that because of the innovation, talent, and solutions approaches, the semiconductor tools, equipment, and fab industries are uniquely positioned to make major advancements for the entire world.

Esty’s main theme – that environmental considerations offer challenges and huge opportunities – is based on his research into dozens of companies. The recent attention being paid to environmental concerns, Esty believes, is rooted in a widespread consciousness-raising. That awareness may be fueled by

  • articles on the environment,
  • public concerns about fossil fuel usage,
  • geopolitical awareness of the ramifications of energy dependence,
  • or even the suspicion that Hurricane Katrina was spawned by global warming.
Regardless of the source, through, Esty sees opportunities that semi companies can participate in.

Esty argues that the world, and especially the United States is facing a "transformative watershed" in society about how to deal with energy issues. Since semiconductor companies are so practiced at innovation, he sees the semiconductor industry playing a critical role in developing new and efficient solutions to the challenge of energy development and production.

The central point of Esty’s analysis and discussion in "Green to Gold" is that companies who make concern for all aspects of the environment a core strategy of their business are able to take advantage of the Green Wave sweeping the globe.

He discussed several examples of success and failures, noting that investing in smarter and more efficient products offers opportunities for new markets, often – but not always – leading to increased profitability.

The rise of environmentally-oriented stakeholders, including governments, environmental activists, and even company shareholders has sharpened the focus on the need for corporate executives to make environmental considerations paramount.

By fully adopting this approach, Esty notes, the product development process expands to include "cradle-to-grave" planning, thus incorporating recycling or end-of-life issues into the entire cost and benefit modeling of a product. Companies who do not do this, he said, may find that this concern becomes "legislated in" by government, and that will have a less-than-optimal effect on product development. Even worse, evolving regulations, changes in the natural world (warming, pollution, and water) and expanding stakeholder interest will reduce or eliminate market opportunities for companies deemed "insensitive" to the environment.

Similarly, Esty said, the companies who do this – at a strategic level – are those who will ensure their future. Citing the contrast between Ford and Toyota, Esty showed how Ford made improvements at a manufacturing site to be more green, while Toyota looked at their automobiles, realized that they could improve everything, and reduced weight and size, improved engine and electronic efficiencies, and made all their cars into "smart" cars, often through the use of computers and sensors.

By seeing that green is a strategy and not a one-time tactic, Toyota has made being green "cool", and that has extended across their brand and improved their market position.

Ford, on the other hand, completely missed the fact that the public perception of the Excursion and Expedition branded the company as environmentally insensitive – regardless of any other green efforts – and that perception remains.

Esty challenged the EHS executives at the lunch to think strategically about environmental issues, but offered the caution that successful implementations have to be driven from the top.

With some companies adding a chief environmental officer function to the executive suite, he sees plenty of opportunity for excellence given the semiconductor industry’s practice at developing leading-edge solutions – not just for their own products, but for technology that can be used to address global energy generation and production needs.

"When your most important asset – your people – can walk out the door because they want to work for a more 'green' company," Esty said, "how you do what you do becomes important. When pension fund managers, or stockholders, or government agencies scrutinize your actions, green becomes important. It's easier being on the front end of this wave than on the back end, and there are plenty of opportunities everywhere."

FULL ARTICLE: SemiconWest2007

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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