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One never knows where they will find evidence of good corporate citizenship, operational excellence and environmental stewardship. This time, it's the lawyers...

Law.com/Corporate Counsel magazine recently interviewed several corporate attorneys at Intel, revealing much about the depth and breadth of the sustainability programs at the world's largest manufacturer of semiconductor chips.


For starters, the firm has invested more than $45 million in more than 1,500 energy efficiency and resource conservation projects since 2001. These efforts have saved more than 790 million kilowatt hours of energy, reducing energy costs by an average of approximately $23 million per year. Not a bad ROI.


The law.com interview reveals how Intel has integrated CSR (corporate social responsibility) and sustainability into its corporate culture. After all, two of the Intel officers interviewed were attorneys, not tech people or sustainability officers. Literally dozens of senior managers within the company meet weekly on sustainability issues.


Intel has won numerous awards for its proactive approach to sustainability issues, including the Corporate Knights Global 100 Most Sustainable Companies for the seventh consecutive year. It was similarly honored by Corporate Responsibility Magazine and Newsweek.


These awards and its inclusion in many market "Sustainability Indexes" are, in part, are a reflection of the firm's partnership with local communities to meet particular challenges. For instance, Intel worked with the City of Chandler, Arizona where it has a plant, to conserve the town's most precious commodity: water.


There, Intel has even constructed a reverse-osmosis plant to help the city "bank" fresh water. To further reduce its stress on local water reserves, the company accepts "gray water" for non-potable uses such as air scrubbers and irrigation.


As a huge power user, Intel recognizes and reaps the benefits from efficiency. They also understand that their environmental footprint is massive, even after their best efficiency gains have been realized. So, for the third year in a row, Intel is the nation's largest purchaser of green power.


With all that Intel attempts to do, one might wonder from which area does their largest impact come? The answer: None of these. With the ubiquity of the company's products, the biggest impact comes from product design. When each PC, smartphone or tablet uses less power, the impact is multiplied globally.


And that's not just saving energy. That is a sustainable competitive advantage.