I type with four fingers of my left hand and one on my right. Fast.
â€œIf you worked at Intel,â€ Will Swope told me the other day, â€œweâ€™d be talking to you about carpal tunnel syndrome.â€
Swopeâ€™s paid to notice this kind of thing. He is vice president for corporate affairs at Intel, a $37-billion a year tech giant, which means he oversees corporate social responsibility, environmental policy, philanthropy, community projectsâ€”and safety.
We met the other day in Intelâ€™s Washington office. Swope is 62, a 29-year veteran of Intel with a bushy white mustache and a big personality. He was in town for a black-tie dinner at which Intel gave away college scholarships to students who win a prestigious national science project competition, called the Intel Science Talent Search. I wanted to get his take on why Intel was ranked No. 1 on a list of the 100 Best Corporate Citizens recently released by CRO magazine.
Mostly, I think such lists are BS â€“really, how can one objectively define â€œ responsible,â€ let alone rank companies as different as Nike, Bank of America, Dow Chemical, Marathon Oil, Target and Tiffany, all of which made the list? In the case of Intel, though, I know the companyâ€™s CSR chief, Dave Stangis (check out his blog) and Iâ€™ve read enough about the company to believe that its top ranking was no fluke. Othersâ€”like Intel competitors and European regulators, who are investigating alleged anti-competitive behavior by Intelâ€”will see things differently but, again, thatâ€™s why lists like the CROâ€™s are inevitably subject.
Swope, who worked in a variety of Intel units before taking over the corporate function in January 2007, told me that he thinks about his current job as serving Intelâ€™s people. The company has about 83,000 employees.
â€œThere are three things that every Intel employee deserves,â€ he said. â€œOne is a safe working environment, and I mean safe in every way.â€ People need to be free from workplace injury, to feel emotionally safe and of course to be safe from any form of discrimination or harassment, no matter where they work in the world. Intel has fabs where it makes chips in places like Malaysia, the Philippines, China, Ireland, Israel and Costa Rica, all of which adhere to the same workplace and environmental standards as its big U.S. operations in Silicon Valley, Oregon and Arizona. Vietnam.
â€œThe second is that every Intel employee deserves a good manager,â€ he went on. This isnâ€™t as easy to monitor, but good management practices have been baked into the Intel culture, notably by its widely admired former CEO, Andy Grove, who wrote a book or two on the subject.
Third, he said, â€œEvery employee deserves to work for a company that he or she can be proud of.â€ This is where environmental, social and philanthropic leadership come into play.
Energy is a huge concern at Intel. Swope told me that its chips are by far the most energy efficient on the market. I donâ€™t know whether thatâ€™s true, but Iâ€™ll take his word for it. The company has a goal of reducing energy consumption in its manufacturing operations by 4 percent per year by unit of production (a key caveat) from a 2002 baseline. During the last seven years, Intel has invested more than $20 million in more than 250 energy conservation projects and saved enough electricity to power about 50,000 U.S. homes.
Intel also buys about 1.3 billion kilowatt hours of energy a year, making it No. 1 on EPAâ€™s Green Power Partnership List. (This list is a verifiable accounting of who is buying renewable energy. PepsiCo is No. 2.)
Swope told me that Intel focused on the environment long before it became fashionable. â€œThe leadership has really cared, forever,â€ he said. Intelâ€™s founder, Gordon Moore, is well known for his foundation and its support of conservation.
As for my typing, that came up when Swope told me about a visit to a plant in Malaysia where he wondered why the workplace injury rate was just a touch higher that the companyâ€™s very low averageâ€”about 0.1 injuries for each 100 workers per hear. It turned out that someone had been hurt playing soccer at a company picnic, skewing the number upwards. But about half of all injuries at Intel are related to carpal tunnel. So heâ€™s focusing on that.
I promised Swope that, one of these days, I will learn to type.