Where Does the Electronics Industry Stand on Sustainability?

While not all companies talk openly about their environmental efforts, not having a plan in place can negatively affect the perception by customers and industry observers.

Spencer Chin, Senior Editor

May 2, 2024

7 Min Read
Sustainability is now considered a given for electronics companies.
Sustainability has become a standard practice in the electronics industry, though some companies are more open than others to disclose their practices. Peach_iStock/ iStock / Getty Images Plus

At a Glance

  • Most electronics companies have extensive sustainability programs in place.
  • Some companies openly reveal their sustainability practices but others remain more hesistant.
  • One study says engineers are more attracted to companies that promote sustainability.

The electronics industry has in recent years made sustainability a part of its corporate strategy, whether daily recycling of wasted materials to long-range facility planning.  While it is safe to assume that practically all major electronics companies have sustainability efforts underway, not all companies appear equally willing to broadcast their green initiatives to the rest of the world.

Design News surveyed major electronics companies on their sustainability efforts. While many companies openly disclosed such information on their websites, others steered Design News to refer to corporate statements or chose not to reveal such information altogether.

The reasons why some electronics suppliers do not want to talk about their environmental track record or efforts could include fear or releasing competitive information, legal reasons, or the difficulty of properly documenting such information. It is unlikely that customers satisfied with working with a company would ditch them because of a perceived lack of sensitivity to environmental issues. However, given increasing global regulations and initiatives, anything a company can do to validate its environmental track record can bolster its marketing efforts and evoke a positive image among shareholders and the public.

Related:Sustainability and Smart Tech Will Revamp Manufacturing in 2024

Green As Marketing Practice

Companies that sell directly to the consumer market probably have the most at stake in evoking the image of being environmentally-sensitive. One company that stands out is Apple, which allocates considerable time and energy to promoting its environmental efforts, even during its semi-annual product launches of new consumer products.

Like other electronics suppliers, Apple has set a goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2030 and openly discusses its record and goals on a portion of its site talking about sustainability. Toward this goal, Apple claims on its website that 22% of the materials shipped in its products came from recycled and renewable sources in 2023. The enclosures for its Macintosh are made from 100% recycled aluminum. Apple also claims that 12.8 million devices and accessories went to new owners for reuse in 2023.

But beyond dry statistics, Apple’s appeal to consumers is that of forward-thinking products that check the boxes on what is considered hip, which includes being green. Last September, Apple said its newest Apple Watch products would be carbon neutral, which meant 100% clean electricity for manufacturing and product use, 30% recycled or renewable material by weight, and 50% shipping without air transportation.

Related:The EU’s Manufacturing Sustainability Regulations Rule the World


Apple’s sustainability efforts have also spread to its supply-chain logistics. The company claims on its site that it reduced product transportation emissions by 20% in 2023 compared to 2022. In one case, the Mac Mini computer, the shift to non-air sources has reduced emissions from its Mac Mini computer shipments by 95%.

Where Semiconductor Suppliers Stand

Intel, which has long been ranked as the largest or second-largest semiconductor supplier, has also heavily promoted its sustainability efforts online. Its goals include achieving net positive water by 2030, which the company aims to reach by conserving 60 billion gallons of water and funding external water restoration projects. The company also aims to use 100% renewable electricity globally and conserve 4 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity by 2030.

Intel’s sustainability efforts also call for driving a 10% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, and achieve zero waste to landfill for at least 60% of its manufacturing waste streams by 2030 in collaboration with its suppliers.   

Rival AMD also touts its sustainability efforts. The company is aiming to increase energy efficiency by a 30X factor for its processors and accelerators powering servers for AI training and high-performance computing between 2020 and 2025. The company is also targeting a 50% decrease in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, and is targeting to have 80% of its direct manufacturing suppliers source renewable energy by 2025.

Related:Which Materials Are Considered “Green” for Electronics

NVIDIA, which according to market research data is now the second largest semiconductor supplier behind Intel, referred Design News to its 2023 Corporate Responsibility Report. In the report, NVIDIA noted that its accelerating development of advanced processors for AI, including GPUs, factors in demand for greater energy efficiency.

The report noted that GPUs handle compute-intensive functions more rapidly than traditional CPUs, thus reducing energy use. NVIDIA touted the ability of its fastest chips, such as the Grace CPU Superchip to vastly outperform traditional chips while at the same time consuming less overall energy. NVIDIA said that moving to accelerate computing with GPUs and other high-speed processors would become crucial as the industry moves to ChatGPT and other large-language models.

According to the report, NVIDIA has similarly ambitious sustainability goals as its rivals, which include going to 100% renewable energy for its offices and data centers by 2025. The company also noted its landfill waste has been reduced 65% over the past three years. Other sustainability initiatives include promoting more recycled water and using 100% recycled fiber in its bulk packaging materials.

Lowering Hazardous Emissions

Over the years, a key challenge facing the semiconductor industry was reducing the use of harmful fluorocarbons in manufacturing processes. Companies are taking aggressive measures to reduce the harmful effects of these substances.

For instance, Infineon installed PFC (perfluorochemicals) abatement systems in their frontend manufacturing in Kulim (Malaysia), enabling it to reduce its emissions by 21 percent. Over the past fiscal year, Infineon also launched a similar project at its Austin, TX site.

According to an e-mail response from the company, Infineon is on track towards its CO2-neutrality goal by 2030, related to its direct and indirect energy-related emissions (Scope 1 and 2). Infineon has reduced these emissions by 56.8 percent since 2019 and is now also trying to reduce emissions in its supply chain.

Last year, according to Infineon, the company transitioned to green electricity in its two largest Asia manufacturing sites - Kulim and Melaka in Malaysia. The company has converted its European and North American sites into using renewable energy the past few years.

Distributors On Board, Too

While sustainability is often perceived as an initiative for manufacturers and suppliers, another important player in the electronics supply chain, the distributor, is also playing a role.

Avnet, one of the largest electronics distributors, stated in a blog post an ambitious set of goals for 2025. This includes increasing the use of renewable energy to 30%, a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (from 2019), and maintaining a 20% reduction in emissions from business travel (from 2019).

According to the blog post, Avnet has deployed solar power for several years at its global headquarters and McKemy distribution center in Arizona. In addition, the company noted that its facilities in the U.K., Germany, Poland, Austria, Belgium, Romania, and Switzerland use green electricity products, such as green tariffs supported by energy attribute certificates and invoices.  

Avnet also mentioned its efforts to increase the use of hybrid and electric vehicles. It has increased the availability of onsite EV charging stations and corporate car policies and expanded low-emission corporate car options.

A Boost for Recruiting?

Having a sustainability strategy and implementation plan may also help recruiting efforts. Components supplier TE Connectivity recently unveiled its second annual Industrial Technology Index, a global survey of executives and engineers about the opportunities and challenges they face as they innovate. The two areas surveyed were AI and sustainability.

When surveyed about sustainable practices at their companies, most engineers revealed a deep passion for the environment. Eighty-seven percent of engineers agree that it is important to support climate change solutions in their work. In fact, 34% said they would leave their job if their company did not provide opportunities to support sustainable initiatives.

According to TE Connectivity, the survey data indicates that executives need to do more work to instill confidence in their engineering communities, as there is a five-point difference between the groups when asked if they were satisfied with their organization's sustainability plan.

About the Author(s)

Spencer Chin

Senior Editor, Design News

Spencer Chin is a Senior Editor for Design News, covering the electronics beat, which includes semiconductors, components, power, embedded systems, artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality, and other related subjects. He is always open to ideas for coverage. Spencer has spent many years covering electronics for brands including Electronic Products, Electronic Buyers News, EE Times, Power Electronics, and electronics360. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him at @spencerchin.

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