In Your Words: AMD CR Director Tim Mohin on Leadership

December 6, 2011

Tim Mohin is Director of Corporate Responsibility at AMD and a board member of Net Impact and the Green Grid

What does the notion of redefining leadership for sustainability mean to you?

A couple of years ago, I wrote a blog post on the evolution in sustainability thinking through the years. The take-home message then was that sustainability leadership is now synonymous with business leadership. Winning businesses accurately anticipate needs and develop products and services to position themselves for the future. This entails two distinct capabilities: accurately predicting trends and innovating to win.

If this sounds like “business 101,” it is. The difference today is that many of the mega trends point to sustainability challenges. The world population cresting seven billion last month served as a poignant reminder of the need to use resources more efficiently. At the same time, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise despite conservation efforts. With trends this obvious, businesses of all types are incorporating sustainability into their thinking. From the GE Ecomagination program to our recent launch of energy efficient AMD Opteron processors for data servers, companies are designing for greater levels of efficiency while continuing to deliver cutting-edge performance.

Hockey’s “great one,” Wayne Gretzky, was quoted saying, “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” This is the lesson for the leaders of tomorrow—sustainability or otherwise—who will be defined by their ability to design products and services that can compete on a different playing field—one that is defined by performance and efficiency.

In your opinion, what are the most significant sustainable business trends of the last decade?

When I started in this field, the dialogue was defined by antagonistic arguments over environmental regulation. While some of these battles persist today, the trend has moved from fighting over environmental regulations to incorporating sustainability into the design of products and services.

We saw this play out when we studied our accelerated processing unit (APU) and found that this new product conserves about 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions as compared to the previous generation of technology. What’s more, the study showed that about 80 to 90 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions from the lifecycle of a computer chip is associated with the use of the product.

Since millions of chips are used every day, this means that even small improvements in energy efficient design can have enormous environmental benefits. Gone are the days when sustainability leaders could get by just touting reductions in their own environmental footprint. Tomorrow’s leaders will be the innovators who design the products that deliver efficiency and performance to the end user.

When it comes to promising opportunities for sustainable business now and in the next five years, where are you placing your bets?

Performance per watt is the name of the game in computing technologies. This trend is both on an individual level, with more energy efficient computing solutions, and on the structural change of moving data from personal devices to the cloud. In both cases, the path is toward more computing performance per watt of power consumed. In addition to these trends, there is a healthy clean-tech market encompassing everything from alternative energy to smart power meters that depends on computing power.  As the world continues to stretch every watt of power, computing technology will play a central role.

This blog reflects the author’s opinions and should not be considered an official representation of the views of AMD.

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