Suzanne Fallender is Intel’s Director of Corporate Responsibility. In this role, she collaborates with key stakeholders across the company to integrate corporate responsibility concepts into company strategies, policies, public reporting, and stakeholder engagement activities to advance Intel’s corporate responsibility leadership and create positive social impact and business value.
GlobeScan Director James Morris spoke to Suzanne about Intel’s approach to corporate responsibility.
After three years directing Intel’s girls and women’s empowerment programs, you’ve been back in the wider corporate responsibility field at Intel now for over a year – what do you think has changed most in the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) field, both broadly, and specifically at Intel?
At Intel we’ve seen continued and deeper integration of CSR across the business and have established new company-wide goals and strategic initiatives in key areas of environmental sustainability, supply chain responsibility, diversity and inclusion and social impact. There is also greater awareness amongst our employees about what CSR is and how they can each play a role, regardless of the areas in which they work. Externally we are seeing changing expectations from stakeholders and the general public around CSR. We’ve also seen a shift in investor interest – we are receiving more questions from mainstream investors than before and we have expanded our integrated investor outreach activities, with strong collaboration across our investor relations, corporate governance and CSR teams. We’ve also seen increased interest from customers – requests for data, requests for collaboration. I think there is also a greater expectation that companies take a stand on social justice issues, and we are seeing more companies and executives speaking out and leveraging their influence in those areas. But the biggest shift in my mind is the reframing of CSR to have a stronger alignment with business impact – defining CSR not only as philanthropic efforts, but as a broader portfolio of strategies through which a company leverages its core assets and expertise to address global challenges.
Is the shift at Intel to a deeper and more integrated approach both a push from those external expectations that you mentioned, whether it be customers, investors, or society more broadly, or was it also a journey within Intel to get to that place?
I think it has been a mix. Intel has a long history of corporate responsibility and has always had a culture of setting goals, driving performance improvements, and looking at challenges from a systems-level perspective. There’s a culture of always wanting to solve problems and improve performance. But the external feedback has helped to drive greater awareness and engagement on these issues internally.
Intel was one of the pioneers of corporate responsibility reporting. It published its first environmental report in 1994. You’ve just recently published your 2016 report. Why is this process still so important and how has it changed?
Transparency has been a key foundation of our approach to corporate responsibility and the report itself is one key aspect of that. Internally, the process of pulling together the report helps us look at our overall impact and interconnectedness of strategies instead of approaching different issues in isolation. It drives accountability internally as well, since we publish our external goals and performance data in the report. Over time we have evolved our approach to ensure we can leverage the report with many different audiences and have evolved the content over time based on stakeholder feedback. For example, when I started many years ago we didn’t have a supply chain responsibility section. Now it is one of the main topics we get asked about. The same thing goes for the topic of human rights. We constantly review how evolving stakeholder expectations will change the actual content, and also the design and the frameworks that we use. This year, we have also designed the report in a much more modular fashion keeping in mind that communications through social mediais becoming more important and that we often get requests on individual topics from customers and investors.
We know how challenging it is to communicate all your efforts to external stakeholders. How do you approach telling Intel’s corporate responsibility story to so such a diverse set of stakeholders?
There are three concepts that we use to drive our approach – consistency, efficiency, and context. In the consistency space we’ve tried to be much more deliberate in communicating our key focus areas. We have built a framework that highlights four key strategic focus areas: environmental sustainability, supply chain responsibility, diversity and inclusion, and social impact. These are each areas where we set bold goals and have robust investment strategies to drive real system-level change through our industry and beyond. We don’t use this framework just in our CSR report – we use it on our website, annual report, proxy statement, customer responses, and also in our internal communications with employees. We try to drive that consistency in how we tell the story at a high level rather than only discussing these topics separately.
On the efficiency piece, I mentioned before that we designed our reports to be modular and graphical, making it easier once the report is done. In the past we’d finish the report and then we’d have to create all these separate infographics on climate change or water or human rights. Now that is all designed from the beginning and we are able to extract individual topics and elements very easily to share on social media or respond to customer or investor questions – it’s more efficient to design the content to be more shareable from the beginning, knowing we are going to be using it in multiple communications channels. We also have our report builder website which allows people to pick specific topics and build their own report based on what is most important to them.
As we’ve talked to stakeholders one of the most important things is context. So for our reporting we want to make sure we ground our corporate responsibility strategy discussion in our business. Unlike many companies in the electronics industry that outsource their production, we manufacture a majority of our products in our own wafer fabrication facilities – something that we find people don’t always realize but which is important to assessing and analyzing our environmental performance data and comparing it with that of other companies.
I think the second thing is providing context around how long we’ve been investing and taking action on these issues. You mentioned our first environmental report in 1994 – we want to make sure that our stakeholders are aware that we’ve been driving some of these reductions for two decades when they are comparing our performance to other companies. For example, we have reduced our carbon emissions by 60 percent over the last two decades.
You are known for your work and your voice around empowering women and girls, and often appear at different events speaking on this subject. How are you and Intel staying involved in that effort?
I am really proud of how we have integrated this approach to women’s empowerment across multiple aspects of the company. What we’re doing in girls and women’s empowerment is not just about our own workforce or about individual social impact programs – we use a holistic approach. I work closely with our Global Diversity and Inclusion team which is driving a strategy that focuses on our own workforce diversity inclusion goals and building new career pathways into the tech industry. We recently released our mid-year Diversity and Inclusion Report and as part of that our CEO called for our 2020 workforce goal to be completed by 2018 – two years ahead of schedule. Our supply chain organization is driving toward our 2020 supplier diversity goal and partnering with a number of other external groups around the world to change the conversation for women-owned businesses in the technology supply chain.
Our Intel Capital Group developed the Intel Capital Diversity Fund, which is seeking to leverage its power and network to broaden opportunities for diverse-owned businesses including women-owned businesses in the technologies field. We have a new initiative called Intel Innovation Generation where we’re working with a range of stakeholders to close the global youth technology skills gap with a focus on underserved youth. The key part of that is focused on gender empowerment. For example, the Intel She Will Connect Program has been working to bring technology training to women in Sub-Saharan Africa, and we are now broadening that program to encourage and empower more US middle school girls to continue studying technology, engineering, and computer science in high school. I’m excited about how we continue to evolve our approach in our programs, and how it has been embedded across the organization.
How have the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) helped to push the work on gender, and also inform the development of Intel’s strategy, initiatives and, long-term goals?
Since we began our CSR journey we have always looked to external frameworks as a grounding in how we talk about, inform, and develop our strategies and goals to make sure that they are aligned with others. I think one of our key design principles is to not just improve our own CSR impact, but to explore how we collaborate with others to drive system-level change. So aligning our key focus areas, strategies, and objectives to the SDGs makes it easier for others to understand how they can engage with us and understand our impact. Another opportunity that we’ve seen since the SDGs were put in place is how technology can help accelerate progress on all of the SDGs. In 2015, we published a research study and report called the SDG ICT Playbook, with other partners including Net Hope and Microsoft. This guide can help companies, governments, and NGOs understand the opportunities to pull in different types of technology to encourage better tracking of information and data on progress, to help foster collaboration, and to directly empower people in their communities.
Finally, what do you see as the next big thing? What’s the next challenge or the next opportunity for companies in the corporate responsibility space?
I think one challenge is related to this ongoing integration journey that we are on. Ultimately it is going to be about really getting to that next level in terms of quantifying impact results both on the business side and also on the social impact side. We need more sophisticated and consistent ways that companies can track and communicate how they are creating value and quantify their impact. I think that will really help drive further integration into mainstream investing and allow customers to evaluate how their suppliers are performing as part of their larger footprint. There is always going to be the part of these activities that you can’t measure and quantify directly, and I think there has to be an understanding of that, but we can do a lot more by involving finance and other organizations to get to that next level.