The chip manufacturing industry: Environmental impacts and eco-efficiency analysis

Sci Total Environ. 2023 Feb 1;858(Pt 2):159873. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.159873. Epub 2022 Nov 2.


Semiconductor manufacturing has followed the fate of a large part of industrial production: many companies, around the world, have maintained higher functions (design and engineering) and outsourced other production stages to third-party manufacturers, located mostly in Asia. Some chip companies have thus become "fabless" firms, commissioning the "fabrication" of their product to wafer "foundries" or "fabs". For the first time, in this paper, by calculating and subsequently analyzing various key environmental performance indicators (KEPIs) from the data of the fabs Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reports, the environmental impacts and the eco-efficiency of the world's leading semiconductor foundries are analyzed and assessed. The aim is to highlight the relations between company size, technological capacity and environmental impact. A preliminary homogenization was necessary to process the company original data and indicators, often related to different units of production, and to obtain raw data in absolute value. Subsequently, adopting a single common manufacturing index (MI), it was possible to obtain and use new comparable performance indicators and KEPIs. The consequent comparative assessment allowed to give a reliable overall picture of the current resource consumption and pollution of this highly strategic sector, highlighting its next heavy environmental challenges. The result, in fact, is that, differently to what happens in many other sectors, in the semiconductor industry, larger company size (higher revenue), higher value added per wafer produced (higher revenue/MI), and higher technological capacity (higher R&D expenses and smaller technology node) are not always related to lower quantities (per unit of production) of water, energy, waste, wastewater and GHG emissions. It is hoped that, for the future, foundry firms, especially those with the most advanced technologies, will invest much more to optimize their resource use and to further reduce GHGs emissions and waste generation.

Keywords: CSR reports; Chip; Eco-efficiency; Foundries; KEPIs; Semiconductors.

MeSH terms

  • Efficiency
  • Environment
  • Environmental Pollution*
  • Industry*
  • Manufacturing Industry