Transparency, integration, and collaboration – what the shifting ESG landscape means for companies

By Suzanne Fallender, Global Director, Corporate Responsibility, Intel

Suzanne Fallender, Intel

Over the past year we have seen a significant shift in what investors, customers, employees, and governments expect from companies on environmental, social and governance (ESG), and how they are using corporate responsibility reporting to drive new conversations and actions.

Today, Intel launches its 2020-21 Corporate Responsibility Report, marking one year since the launch of our 2030 RISE strategy and goals, developed to create a more responsible, inclusive, and sustainable world, enabled through our technology and employees. This past year, we’ve had important discussions–internally and externally–about how to drive greater value and impact through corporate responsibility. More specifically, what additional actions are needed in the areas of transparency, integration, and collaboration to succeed in this rapidly changing landscape.

Transparency. This past year, we’ve seen more investors call for standardized disclosures on climate risk as well as faster progress by companies on social issues–from diversity and inclusion goals and pay equity, to employee health, safety and wellness strategies in the face of COVID-19. Large companies are increasingly turning to their suppliers to ask for both ESG data to help them in their own reporting, and to seek help in reducing environmental footprints or mitigate human rights risks in their extended supply chains. Governments are evaluating existing ESG reporting frameworks and whether to advance increased regulation to ensure quality and comparable data.

At Intel, we have proactively engaged with investors on ESG issues for two decades, integrated ESG information in our financial filings, and utilized third-party assurance over ESG metrics. We have also aligned our reporting with key global ESG reporting standards such as the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board, International Integrated Reporting Council, and the Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosures. In this year’s Corporate Responsibility Report, we also expanded our disclosure based on investor feedback – including product security and supply chain assurance, inclusion and social equity, and responsible AI.

Integration. More and more companies are looking for deeper internal integration of ESG across their business, including leveraging the expertise of their finance teams to respond to investor questions, or involving their sales and marketing groups and product teams in sustainability strategy discussions with customers. We have taken actions over the past decade to integrate corporate responsibility into internal systems and processes–from formal Board oversight of ESG issues, to integrating inclusion factors into our hiring processes, performance management systems, and executive compensation.

The launch of Intel’s new 2030 goals presented an opportunity to further increase the level of integration and engagement of more teams across Intel. For example, Intel’s finance teams have been actively involved in our ESG reporting and investor outreach, but this year they also integrated sustainability metrics into our debt financing activities for the first time. We entered into a $5 billion, five-year revolving credit facility to be used for general corporate purposes. If drawn, the interest rate is subject to adjustment based on whether we achieve, or fail to achieve, certain annual energy and water conservation targets in support of our 2030 goals. We believe that at the time of closure, it was the largest sustainability-linked credit facility executed to date by a technology company.

Collaboration. Perhaps the biggest shift we are seeing in the landscape is the call for more collaborative models around corporate responsibility and social impact. While many companies continued to announce their own goals and targets during 2020, we’ve also seen an increasing number of coalitions formed to leverage strengths and assets of different companies and industries. Collaborative efforts are not without their challenges –– but if done right, can have greater levels of efficiency and sustained impact over the long term.

Over the past year, this has been the biggest shift in Intel’s own corporate responsibility strategy. Through the Intel Pandemic Response Technology Initiative (PRTI) we worked with more than 170 organizations on 230 projects applying technology to address the economic, education, and health impacts of COVID-19. In early 2021, we expanded the PRTI to become the Intel RISE Technology Initiative to leverage the learnings and new internal processes from the PRTI to accelerate progress across our entire RISE strategy.

To address climate change, we launched the Digital Climate Alliance, bringing together companies and policymakers to identify ways to expand the technology climate “handprint” or the ways in which technology solutions can be applied to help reduce climate impact across many other industries. We partnered with several companies to launch the Alliance for Global Inclusion and developed shared diversity and inclusion metrics. We also made progress on our 2030 goal to scale our AI for Youth program in partnership with 30 governments and 30,000 institutions worldwide to empower more than 30 million people with AI skills training for current and future jobs. Through strong partnerships, we reached more than 100,000 youths from more than 5,000 institutions in 11 countries by the end of 2020.

The ESG landscape is complex to navigate, and it will require all stakeholders to work together to truly move the needle.