Innovation increasingly means looking at how best to use, conserve and reuse materials to help protect our environment. The IT industry has been a significant source of environmental damage, but is now transforming itself. It has responded to the need to develop better sustainable IT, from manufacturing to services to decommissioning – and to support the circular economy for devices and equipment.
“It is at the core of what we believe in, how we drive our operations globally and how we build our products,” said Roberta Zouain, sustainability lead for client segments at Intel. The company has been working for decades on improving environmental standards, and is keen to use this experience to play a role in leading the sector into the new circular economy, she explained.
“In our manufacturing process, we have set a target of zero emissions for scope 1 [direct emissions] and scope 2 [energy use] by 2040, as well as upstream scope 3 emissions by 2050,” Zouain said. Intel is already at 93 per cent renewable electricity use across its global operations and is working to raise that in locations where the supply of renewable energy is still limited. Intel has a goal to reach 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030.
Water is another key component of the manufacturing process and a finite resource that requires conservation. “As of last year, Intel has treated and returned to communities 107 per cent of the water that we use,” Zouain said. “We have also made significant progress on waste. Only 6 per cent of the waste generated by our global operations goes to the landfill; we aim get to zero waste to landfill by 2030.” This reduction has been driven by effective recycling, repurposing of materials and minimising Intel’s impact on the environment.
Sustainable design is critical to ensure products meet the needs of customers and support the company’s own work on sustainability. Intel develops reference designs internally to use with PC manufacturers. “As part of this process, we really try to tinker and find out what are the changes that can help move the needle in driving more sustainable products and reducing the carbon footprint of those reference designs, which then in turn can help influence designs from our partners,” Zouain said.
These design changes can also ensure that PCs are easier to repair, and can even reduce the energy use in internal components such as cooling systems. As a result, Intel has exceeded the US’s Energy Star standard and is committed to further improving the efficiency in each generation of products.
Software, products and services can contribute to environmental conservation, too. “What we do from a business client perspective is really think about how we can provide tools that can help with sustainable IT operations,” Zouain said. One example of this is Intel Active Management Technology (Intel AMT), part of the Intel vPro platform, which allows problems to be addressed remotely without someone having to be sent out to fix them, even if the operating system is down. “We calculated that a single unplanned round trip to repair a laptop is the equivalent of two years of energy use for that same laptop in terms of greenhouse gas emissions,” she said.
Remote repair and maintenance can have other benefits too. University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust is moving to Intel vPro-based systems. The trust’s journey started in 2020 just before the Covid-19 pandemic struck the UK. Intel vPro was a transformational change for healthcare environments where strict infection control had previously meant IT engineers could only access equipment when an area was clear of patients and staff. The impact of the pandemic underlined the value of being able to remotely repair IT systems, ensuring smooth hospital functions and protecting staff and patients. Intel vPro systems have now been installed in over 200 devices across sites including operating theatres and intensive care units.
Decommissioning PCs is the closing of the circle that starts with sustainable design. “We work with our partners to ensure that after a long and repairable life, PCs can be broken down easily into reusable parts and that the data is cleaned to ensure security,” Zouain said. Intel is providing solutions so that customers don’t have to destroy storage drives or the entire device, which has historically been common practice when it comes time to disposing of a PC.
Intel has also just introduced a new technology called Intel Platform Service Record, which takes some lessons from the used car market and applies them to IT. When you buy a used car, you can get a report about how many miles were driven, preventive maintenance, if it was ever in a crash or written off. As a result, the prices for used cars and the used car market changed significantly because people understood what they were buying. The Intel Platform Service Record logs where and when that PC was created, how many times it was restarted or powered on, the repair record and other important information on performance. “This will help customers making decisions around repairing, recycling and repurposing that PC, and hopefully help maximise its residual value,” Zouain explained.
Intel is using these lessons in sustainable design, manufacturing and decommissioning to collaborate with partners and governing bodies in defining industry standards for sustainability. “The key for us is to demonstrate that sustainability and performance can work together, so that repair and reuse become a bigger part of how we work with IT. With the built-for-business Intel vPro platform we can support the long and productive life of IT and provide good customer service, both in the cause of a more sustainable sector,” Zouain said.
Learn more about Intel vPro at www.intel.com/vpro