02:41 AM

ChipWatch - Social Responsibility In Chip Manufacturing And Why I Miss Pasquale Pistorio

By Matt Grimshaw, Editorial Director of the Semiconductor Technical Journal Future Fab International

Back in 1999 when I was just starting out in the chip business I was lucky enough to be involved in an editorial focus we ran called Millennium Visions which we ran in the January 2000 issue to celebrate the turn of Y2K.

It essentially featured many of the industries top CEO's & Execs putting together a short piece on where they thought the industry would be in ten years time. It featured many of the biggest names in business at the time (some still are); Tetsuro Higashi (Pres/CEO - Tokyo Electron Ltd), Jim Morgan (Chairman/CEO - Applied Materials), Yoon Woo Lee (Pres/CEO Semiconductor Business - Samsung) and even Mike Splinter when he was still head of manufacturing at Intel (he's now CEO at Applied Materials).

My personal favorite was the vision from Pasquale Pistorio who was President & CEO of ST Microelectronics and was far ahead of his time in his thinking. While all the visions were interesting, Pistorio's struck a chord with me because he genuinely gave a damn about things that are bigger than making money and growing a business.

Of course business growth is important, as is making money, but when taken in context of the planet and the survival of mankind, business becomes a secondary issue. So while everyone else at the time was talking solely about technology challenges and business issues, Pistorio was the sole voice talking about corporate responsibility and environmental issues.

I remember at the time being moved by his enthusiasm and bravery because he was the only CEO that was evangelizing the idea that being green and making green can be one and the same thing; that environmentalism was in fact building shareholder value and not merely the ramblings of a mad philanthropist.

After the spectacular collapse of the economy everyone seems to recognize that a penny saved is a penny earned and the topic of my last post on Texas Instruments RFAB quite fittingly proves his point as it saves millions of dollars per year in heating, water and utilities by simply being designed and thought out well from the start.

However, Pistorio was a true visionary for the time as he was pushing that same agenda a decade or more ago when the internet was in its infancy and Google was still trying to figure out how to make money while not 'doing evil'.

Now the whole world is paying attention to issues like this, but in the semiconductor world no one seems to be pushing the sanity of corporate responsibility and discussing the business implications of being green, or if they have been they're not shouting it nearly loud enough.

So it pleased me greatly to read that Pistorio has been up to his old tricks at the recent International Electronics Forum with several news stories springing up about his "six principles for being a CEO in the semiconductor industry" - but it got me to thinking: why is no-one picking up this mantle? It made Pistorio a legendary figure in the chip business and put ST Micro up on a pedestal as an example to all the industry...such amazingly good PR cannot be bought and it's also an opportunity for someone to transcend the chip industry...

So here's a call to all semiconductor grande fromage: Pasquale Pistorio's boots are certainly a big pair to fill - but who's got the gumption to pick up where he left off?