Sustainability & Technology: Why Intel is an Eco-Leader with Intel's Todd Brady

This episode originally aired on May 22, 2015 on Green is Good Radio.

Today on GreenIsGood: Intel is a global leader in corporate sustainability, spurring its employees to think and create greener.

JOHN SHEGERIAN: Welcome back to Green is Good, and we’re so honored to have with us for the first time Todd Brady. He’s the Global Environmental Director for the iconic and great brand, Intel Corporation. Welcome to Green is Good, Todd.

TODD BRADY: Thanks, John. It’s a pleasure to be here.

JOHN SHEGERIAN: Before we get talking about sustainability and technology and all the great things that makes Intel an eco-leader, we’d like you to share with our listeners, Todd, the Todd Brady story leading up to your position at Intel and what sustainability means to you.

TODD BRADY: For me, the whole sustainability journey started probably 25 years ago, back when I was in engineering school back in college. I was a chemical engineer at the time, focusing on traditional engineering things. I remember I took an air pollution course, and I was fascinated by the interplay between science, technology, community issues, political issues and how they all came together. From there, I decided this is what I want to do for a living. I had a couple of different jobs before I joined Intel. Upon joining Intel, my career really started as a traditional environmental engineer, working with the company to figure out how we could reduce our emissions, how we could be a better corporate citizen. It’s been fascinating to me over these 25 years to see sustainability evolve from only focusing on, 20 years ago, what are our emissions, what our impacts, to today, what are the opportunities? Not only what’s going on inside of Intel, but what’s happening with our supply chain? What do our customers want? What does the general public care about? I think, really exciting, how can we use our products to solve some of the biggest sustainability challenges that are out there today?

JOHN SHEGERIAN: Speaking of that, I was reading all about you and one of your quotes had to deal with emissions from manufacturing and the solution. Can you share that with our listeners, your take on emissions versus solutions and how IT is basically in the nexus of that solution-based model?

TODD BRADY: Yeah, absolutely. We call it our footprint versus our handprint, our footprint being this is the environmental impact we have on the world. At Intel, we’re the world’s largest semiconductor company. We’ve got big manufacturing plants all around the world. We use water, we have emissions, we generate waste, etc. We’re constantly working on how can we reduce that impact. If we look at our carbon footprint and the carbon footprint of the entire IT industry, it turns out that collectively, as an IT industry, we represent about 2-3 percent of the world’s carbon footprint, if you will. Now, turn that around and look at what we call our handprint. What can we do with our technology to help address and solve these sustainability challenges? We’re 2-3 percent of the carbon footprint. We believe you can use IT to make the world more efficient, address that other 97-98 percent, whether that’s through smart buildings, smart infrastructure, more efficient ways of doing commerce. Look around you at all the different ways IT is used today and the ways that we can use it in the future. I think there’s a real opportunity here for us to use that technology to address climate change, greenhouse gas emissions, and the things that we’re struggling with today.

JOHN SHEGERIAN: Today, we’re going to be talking about not only Intel and why Intel is an eco-leader, but the convergence of sustainability and technology, which you just discussed with us and just shared with our listeners. Before we get into that, can you share with our listeners again your role? Obviously, you’re the Global Environmental Director. What does that mean, and what are you most proud of when it comes to Intel’s sustainability initiatives that you’re leading now?

TODD BRADY: As I mentioned, we’re the world’s largest semiconductor manufacturer. A primary part of my role, if you look at our environmental footprint, what can we do to reduce it? We have initiatives around making our facilities more energy-efficient, using less water, recycling our waste, etc. In addition, we focus on our supply chain. What can we do to work with our suppliers? We have tens of thousands of suppliers around the globe. How can we work with them to make their products and processes more efficient? We partner with our customers. How can we build a product that’s more energy-efficient, that has less of an environmental impact? Each of those computers that you purchase year after year, how can we make those more energy-efficient? Intel has a key role in doing that. My role at the company is to help direct and set that vision for the company, and then drive those initiatives to make that a success.

JOHN SHEGERIAN: Gotcha. That makes a ton of sense. Todd, 10 years ago, before there were people like you who were the Global Environmental Directors of iconic brands like Intel, or before we had the title of Chief Sustainability Officer, people always used to say in 2002, “We can’t be green; it’s more expensive.” But from a business standpoint, now that we’re here in 2015, what are some of the benefits of being a more sustainable company, and is it also green for your bottom line by being more sustainable?

TODD BRADY: That’s something that I believe in strongly, not just working at Intel, but even in my personal life as I make decisions about being green. Does it make sense financially as well? Those are the initiatives we want to drive. I’ll give you an example. Since 2007-2008, we’ve set up an energy conservation fund where we said we’re going to dedicate energy each year to do projects, but only those projects that have a positive ROI for the company. We thought, initially we’ll spend a few million dollars here and there, but we’ll quickly run out of ideas. Fast-forward today, last year we spent over $30 million on energy conservation projects. These were projects that were identified by our engineers around the globe, things we could do to be more efficient. We funded those projects. We’ve spent over $100 million over this timeframe. That’s reduced our use of electricity, our use of natural gas, those kinds of things, which in turn has reduced our emissions, but we’ve also saved over $200 million. For every dollar invested, we’ve gotten $2 out of making those investments. There’s a clear link between efficiency, being more efficient, being green and making good business sense. The two come together.

JOHN SHEGERIAN: For our listeners who just joined us, we’ve got Todd Brady. He’s the Global Environmental Director of Intel. To learn more about all the great and green things that Intel is doing, you can go to www.intel.com. Todd, for the sixth consecutive year, Intel has been recognized by the EPA as the largest voluntary purchaser of green power in the United States. Where is Intel headed as it relates to renewable energy in the future?

TODD BRADY: This is an area where we’re going to continue to invest. As you said, we are the largest voluntary purchaser of green power in the U.S. It’s a significant amount of power; it’s over 3 billion kilowatts of power. To put that in perspective, that’s a big number, but it doesn’t mean a lot by itself. That’s the equivalent of the electricity consumption of about 300,000 homes. To put it in terms of cars and emissions, that would be like taking almost 2 million cars off the road each year. It’s a significant commitment we made as a company to support green energy, and we’ve done that because we firmly believe that that’s the future, and by making that investment, we are hoping to spur additional investment into green energy and development of green energy. In addition, we’ve installed 18 or so solar installations across the U.S., where we’ve installed solar power generation onsite. Not only do we want to buy the green energy, but where we can, we want to invest and have that directly at the locations in which we operate.

JOHN SHEGERIAN: Green power is going to continue to play a big role in the future of Intel. Let’s now break it down a little bit further. Let’s talk about operations. How do you approach sustainability with regards to Intel in a bifurcated way? You have your operations, and then you have all your campuses and facilities across the world. How do you approach sustainability and environmental impact in both of those different settings and get buy-in and create champions within Intel to get further buy-in and make this a cultural and DNA issue at Intel?

TODD BRADY: You’re absolutely correct. In fact, I’ll rattle off a few different numbers and things that we’ve accomplished. That would not be possible without having all of the individuals which we do at Intel engage and energize, bringing forward solutions and opportunities. One of the keys in driving any sustainability program at a company, at an organization, in a community, is to get that engagement at the grassroots level. We’ve done a few different things. One of the things that I find fascinating, we started it five or six years ago, is a sustainability in action grant program. We created a program whereby we said to our employees around the world, “If you have an idea around sustainability that you would like to do either at Intel or in your local community, bring it forward and we’re going to have a process whereby we select and fund these projects.” Each year, I’m blown away by the ideas that our employees bring forward, and then we fund them centrally. We had some engineers in our Folsom, California, campus make beehives onsite to make honey, and in turn, that honey is used in our local cafeterias. They had read about the issues with bees and pollination and the fact that there was colony collapse with bees, and they said, “Hey, we want to help there. We can do this right onsite,” and they did. They sent me a bottle of the honey. It was phenomenal. We’ve had an attorney who said, “Hey, could we use some of our emissions off of our factories to grow algae, which then could be turned into a biofuel?” Again, this came from an attorney, a legal person at Intel. He did a pilot project with the local university, where we demonstrated that we could do that, that it was feasible. We had engineers in Israel who worked with the local school, obviously a very desert region, to set up a rainwater capture program for literally tens of thousands dollars, a very small amount, and here they created a rainwater capture program that meets the irrigation needs for that school. I’m always fascinated by the ideas that come forward, the innovation that people have to solve sustainability challenges, wherever they may be.

JOHN SHEGERIAN: Just like Intel is one of the greatest and most innovative technology companies in the world, you’ve taken sustainability and made it an innovation project at Intel, where people can come to you with all sorts of left field ideas and innovate in sustainability, and if it makes sense, you’re giving them the latitude to get these things done.

TODD BRADY: Absolutely. Again, it’s unleashing that creativity in individuals. We have a follow-up where we also have an awards program. We recognize individuals who step out of their comfort zone and do this. We have dedicated environmental sustainability professionals around the globe, and their job day in and day out is to work in this area. There’s a few hundred of those individuals out of 100,000-pplus company. How do we engage all of those other individuals? This is one program in which we do so. We also have a social media site. We started this up a few years ago, where people can exchange ideas. It started out by some of my staff seeding questions and what could we potentially do out to the employee base. It’s now totally run by employees, where someone will post, in California for example, in the drought situation, many individuals are ripping out their lawns and replacing it with the desert landscaping, low-water landscaping. Employees will post, “Hey, has anybody done this?” Then another employee will respond, “Yes, I recently did it. Here’s how I did it. Here’s what it looks like. Here’s before and after pictures. Here was my budget. Here’s some tips on how to do it.” It’s really been a phenomenal resource for people to connect, to share ideas, to get engaged, and it’s now one of our largest employee forums where people go and share ideas at Intel.

JOHN SHEGERIAN: Excuse my ignorance on this issue, Todd, but how many employees does Intel have across the world?

TODD BRADY: Over 100,000. I think it’s about 108,000 today.

JOHN SHEGERIAN: So you and your team have made sustainability a DNA and cultural opportunity, really, at Intel across the planet with all of your employees, where they’ve now become ambassadors and evangelists for sustainability, and of course, that converges with, as you said, technology.

TODD BRADY: Absolutely. As always, it’s a work in progress, but it’s a phenomenal opportunity. I’ll share one other thing that we’ve done, and that is the past five years, we’ve linked our employees’ bonus, and by the way, I’m here as a spokesperson. There are thousands of people behind the scenes. Our CEO is a phenomenal supporter of this program, and five years ago, he said, “Hey, let’s begin linking employee compensation to how we’re doing on sustainability topics.” This is compensation for all employees. We all get bonuses at the end of the year. We have a number of targets we’re trying to hit as a company, and having one of those targets associated with sustainability has also raised the awareness within the company and helped build that culture of sustainability is important and something I care about. It’s something that important to me.

JOHN SHEGERIAN: Todd, I don’t want to leave this fact out. Intel is a technology leader in the world, and you are obviously from this discussion now, our listeners know, you are one of the great eco-leaders in the world as a company. I’m on your website. Again, for our listeners out there, to learn more about all the amazing things Intel is up to, both from a technological perspective, but also sustainability perspective, please go to www.intel.com. I’m on your website now. We’ve talked about operations, we’ve talked about your campuses and facilities, and your employees. Let’s go back to the products. Can you talk about the actions you’ve taken as a company to reduce the environmental impact of your products, such as what I’m looking at right now, your design for the environment principles that you’ve employed at Intel?

TODD BRADY: Yeah, absolutely. We look at our products. Probably the biggest impact of our products on the environment is the energy that our products use of the consumer or whoever is using them. You think about your computer, the data center, all the infrastructure behind the IT, and the energy being consumed. It’s an order of magnitude larger than any energy that we consume manufacturing those products. As a result, we’ve had a long focus on making our products more energy-efficient. Year over year, we follow what we call Moore’s Law, which is every couple of years we introduce new chips that have twice the number of transistors as the previous generation on the same area of silicon. That allows you to either have more computing power or it allows you to make the product more energy-efficient and everywhere in between. As a result, today’s computers, today’s data centers are much more efficient than they were even just 3-4 years ago, such that your computer can last all day on a single battery charge. Your data center server today, you could replace nine or ten servers from five years ago. A server today, you could replace it and get energy savings as well as have computational compute power replacing one server for 10 servers just a few years ago. That’s what we can do to directly make our products more energy-efficient. Then, how can you use those products to go solve sustainability challenges? There, we’ve got a number of different initiatives underway. We’ve got an innovative product where we’re using Intel technology to measure air quality and do so at a very inexpensive way. A typical air quality monitor that’s out there that the EPA or someone might use runs in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. We’ve created small air monitors based on Intel technology that cost thousands of dollars. We’re working with various cities around the world to use these air qualities to monitor the air quality of the given air-shed for a city. In fact, after we’re done here, I’m going to go look at a project we’re doing in Arizona to work with a local farmer to use Intel technology to automate the watering of her fields to make the use of water much more efficient.

JOHN SHEGERIAN: Wow. Intel is powering the future of sustainability.

TODD BRADY: It’s something that we think there’s an opportunity there. We want to look at all the various opportunities to do so.

JOHN SHEGERIAN: Thank you, Todd, for your time today. We’re going to have you back and continue the discussion about sustainability and technology and why Intel is an eco-leader. For our listeners out there, to learn more about Intel, please go to www.intel.com. Thank you, Todd, for being an inspiring sustainability superstar. You are truly living proof that green is good.