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Tokyo Electron leads drive to purge CO2 from chip supply chain

  • November 4, 2021
  • , Nikkei Asia , 5:24 a.m.
  • English Press

SAKI MASUDA, Nikkei staff writer


TOKYO — Tokyo Electron, Japan’s top maker of chipmaking equipment, is spearheading an effort to reduce carbon dioxide emissions throughout its supply chain as Apple’s push to have its suppliers go carbon-neutral this decade reverberates through the industry.


Under its E-Compass sustainability initiative announced in June, the company is taking steps to lower CO2 emitted from transportation, including switching to rail and reducing packaging. It is considering ways to cut assembly-related emissions as well.


Cutting carbon emissions has increasingly become a priority for the semiconductor industry as demand skyrockets even as more countries and companies set climate goals.


“The environmental performance of equipment has become an important criterion for customers,” President Toshiki Kawai said in an environmental, social and governance briefing in October.


Tokyo Electron aims to reduce per-wafer CO2 emissions by 30% from 2018 levels by 2030 — and to slash overall CO2 emissions from its plants and offices by 70% over the same period through such moves as switching to renewable energy.


Other Japanese suppliers of chipmaking equipment, a market for which the country holds a substantial share, are moving in a similar direction. Screen Holdings is developing and selling more offerings with smaller carbon footprints, cutting energy consumption for some cleaning products by more than 80% compared with 2001.


Tokyo Electron develops green technology at its Miyagi Technology Innovation Center. (Photo courtesy of Tokyo Electron)

This trend among upstream companies in the chip supply chain has been spurred by developments downstream — namely, Apple’s ambitious goal of a carbon-neutral supply chain by 2030.


Apple environmental reports show that the bulk of its carbon footprint comes from product manufacturing and transport. Chipmakers, equipment manufacturers and materials suppliers have little choice but to join its emissions-cutting push.


Making progress industrywide will not be easy. Demand is climbing sharply for chips for Internet of Things devices and 5G wireless, driving up CO2 emissions in turn.


Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.’s CO2 emissions have increased about 40% over the past five years, according to Refinitiv. Nomura Securities estimates that installing state-of-the-art lithography equipment would save TSMC the equivalent of the annual power consumption by a city of 50,000.


TSMC and Intel are two of Tokyo Electron’s top customers, accounting for nearly 30% of sales. If the Japanese company does not step up to keep pace with European and American rivals, it risks letting major business opportunities slip by.

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