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Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Green Supply Chain

Just in time for my trip to FPD China 2008 and SEMICON China, a devastating article about the polysilicon industry in China appeared in the Washington Post last week. In a major feature, the Post reported:

“In China, polysilicon plants are the new dot-coms. Flush with venture capital and with generous grants and low-interest loans from a central government touting its efforts to seek clean energy alternatives, more than 20 Chinese companies are starting polysilicon manufacturing plants. The combined capacity of these new factories is estimated at 80,000 to 100,000 tons -- more than double the 40,000 tons produced in the entire world today.
(But) solar plants in China have not installed technology to prevent pollutants from getting into the environment or have not brought those systems fully online, industry sources say.”

Whether or not the accusations in the story are accurate, or widespread, SEMI has a huge responsibility to our members and society to being positive a force in advancing environmental responsibility and Best Practices in the industries we serve. Membership in SEMI should come with both responsibilities and benefits, but this is difficult to assure and enforce. Many of the benefits of membership, such as industry standards and public policy benefits are not exclusive to members--everyone benefits. Even in trade shows, non-exhibitors and non-members benefit from the industry congregation by setting up meetings in hotel rooms, even though they have contributed nothing to the incentives that bring customers, industry experts and other leaders to the venue.

SEMI is not overly concerned with restricting benefits to dues-paying members and exhibitors. We do, however, struggle with assigning responsibilities to members as part our association mission. Many associations require the signing of a code of conduct or principles to be members. Very often, these associations are established exclusively to address environmental and other public policy issues; common agreement on certain industry practices is the raison d'tre of the organization.

At SEMI, we encourage and support our member’s environmental responsibilities in a separate vehicle called Global Care. Members of Global Care have agreed to support important sustainability objectives. In dealing with the emerging polysilicon businesses in China, and elsewhere, we will be using both SEMI membership and Global Care to influence environmental practices. By becoming a SEMI member, new China companies become part of global network of suppliers that implicitly agree to a responsible code of conduct. By joining Global Care, members explicitly agree to a substantive commitment to sustainability practices. SEMI is committed to bringing emerging China companies into the global marketplace and into our membership so we can assure greater assurance to all members, and all parts of society, that we are leaving the earth a better place than when we found it.

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