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Qualcomm leads other major US chipmakers in setting net-zero goal

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Qualcomm leads other major US chipmakers in setting net-zero goal

Chipmakers require tremendous amounts of energy and water, but U.S. chip producer QUALCOMM Inc. aims to reach net-zero emissions within the next 20 years.

Qualcomm intends to achieve net-zero global emissions for Scopes 1, 2 and 3 by 2040. The process will be somewhat staggered, with Qualcomm aiming to reduce absolute Scope 1 and Scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030 from 2020. Scope 1 emissions are direct greenhouse emissions that occur from sources controlled or owned by an organization. Scope 2 emissions are indirect greenhouse gas emissions associated with the purchase of electricity, steam, heat or cooling.

Qualcomm also aims to reduce absolute Scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions — or those emissions resulting from assets not owned or controlled by the company, like suppliers or employee commuting — by 25% by 2030.

For the most part, Qualcomm's semiconductor business utilizes a fabless production model, which means it does not own or operate foundries for the production of the silicon wafers used to make the company's integrated circuits. Instead, the company relies on third parties to perform the manufacturing and assembly. As a result, Qualcomm's Scope 2 and Scope 3 emissions are much higher than its Scope 1 emissions.

Qualcomm's Scope 1 emissions in 2020 totaled 112,479 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, according to data from Trucost. Scope 2 emissions totaled 151,193 tCO2e, while Trucost data for total Scope 3 emissions in 2020 were unavailable as of Nov. 2. For 2019, Scope 3 downstream emissions totaled 2.7 million metric tons of CO2e, and Scope 3 upstream emissions totaled 1.7 MtCO2e — representing 95% of Qualcomm's total emissions in 2019.

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The company also said meeting emissions goals will heavily depend on 5G technologies. In a report released earlier this year, Qualcomm outlined ways companies can leverage 5G to reduce waste and called on industry leaders and the government to commit to 5G rollout.

"5G technologies and products will be instrumental in driving an environmentally sustainable future. We're working with our partners and customers to reduce emissions footprints, conserve resources and harness the sustainability benefits of 5G globally," Qualcomm President and CEO Cristiano Amon said in a news release.

Qualcomm's announcement follows a similar declaration by semiconductor producer Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. TSMC, which is currently the world's largest semiconductor contract manufacturer, said it plans to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. Demand for semiconductors is at a high due to shortage brought on by labor and transportation challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as a drought in Taiwan.

Qualcomm's U.S.-based industry peers have also announced energy-saving goals since last year, though no other major player with a market capitalization over $100 million has committed to becoming carbon neutral.

Intel Corp. said in 2020 that it intends to rely exclusively on renewable energy for global electricity by 2030 and reduce landfill waste. Among its large U.S. peers, Intel had the highest greenhouse gas emissions in 2019, according to Trucost.

Advanced Micro Devices Inc. called for a 50% reduction in absolute Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions from their operations from 2020 to 2030, as well as a 30x increase in energy efficiency for processors and accelerators powering servers for artificial intelligence training and high-performance computing from 2020 to 2025. The company also set standards for suppliers.

In February 2021, Broadcom Inc. stated in its Environmental, Social, Governance Report that it is committed to improving data collection processes to reduce waste, but did not commit to specific reduction goals.

Texas Instruments Inc. in 2020 set a goal to reduce absolute Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2025 using a 2015 baseline.

Trucost is part of S&P Global Market Intelligence.