Apple commits to be 100 percent carbon neutral for its supply chain and products by 2030

Corporate emissions worldwide are still an important topic so bringing its own carbon footprint to net zero within ten years may be a…

Apple commits to be 100 percent carbon neutral for its supply chain and products by 2030
Photo by Carles Rabada / Unsplash

Corporate emissions worldwide are still an important topic so bringing its own carbon footprint to net zero within ten years may be a difficult task which Apple is eager to solve.

Debates on climate change, environment and the impact of the human being on this planet aren’t new. Although they may have stepped into the background since COVID-19 hit the planet, the discussion if we still can put a foot on the brake and turn the rudder before everything ends up in yet another (the final) human demise is still alive. With Apple’s statement to go 100 percent carbon neutral for all products as well as its supply chain within ten years, this topic is in the focus as one of the big companies out there makes a definite statement to change a lot until 2030.

While Apple is told to be already carbon neutral today for corporate emissions worldwide and does invest a lot in renewable energy constructs, deploying this attitude onto the complete supply chain is still a quite challenging task. Yesterday Cupertino announced its plans to achieve exactly this within just ten years across the entire business. To put it into one sentence: By 2030, each device Apple sold will have zero climate impact!

Innovations to come

“Businesses have a profound opportunity to help build a more sustainable future, one born of our common concern for the planet we share,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “The innovations powering our environmental journey are not only good for the planet — they’ve helped us make our products more energy efficient and bring new sources of clean energy online around the world. Climate action can be the foundation for a new era of innovative potential, job creation, and durable economic growth. With our commitment to carbon neutrality, we hope to be a ripple in the pond that creates a much larger change.”
The Montague wind farm in Oregon is one of Apple’s largest projects at 200 megawatts and powers Apple’s Prineville data center — Photo Credits: Apple

Heading on, Apple also provided details on its approach towards carbon neutrality: In its 2020 Environmental Progress Report — released yesterday as well — Apple details its plans to reduce emissions by 75 percent by 2030 while developing innovative carbon removal solutions for the remaining 25 percent of its comprehensive footprint. To achieve this and further support these efforts and beyond, Apple is told to establish an „Impact Accelerator“ which will focus on investing in minority-owned businesses that drive positive outcomes in its supply chain and in communities that are disproportionately affected by environmental hazards.

Accelerator of a carbon-free company

This accelerator will be part of Cupertino’s recently announced $100 million „Racial Equity and Justice Initiative“, focused on efforts that address education, economic equality, and criminal justice reform. “We’re proud of our environmental journey and the ambitious roadmap we have set for the future,” said Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives. “Systemic racism and climate change are not separate issues, and they will not abide separate solutions. We have a generational opportunity to help build a greener and more just economy, one where we develop whole new industries in the pursuit of giving the next generation a planet worth calling home.”

Over 80 percent of the renewable energy that Apple sources comes from projects that Apple created — Photo Credits: Apple

Apple’s Climate Roadmap — Low-carbon product design

Among Apple’s 10-year roadmap which is told to take care of lower emissions with a series of innovative actions, is the continuous striving for low carbon product design: The company will continue to increase the use of low carbon and recycled materials in its products, innovate in product recycling, and design products to be as energy efficient as possible. Recycling by robots like „Dave“ or „Daisy“ is used to better separate materials from older iPhones while new products and those released within the last years (Phone, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch) are already made of and with recycled content, including 100 percent recycled rare earth elements in the iPhone Taptic Engine — a first for Apple and for any smartphone. According to the company, Apple already decreased its carbon footprint by 4.3 million metric tons in 2019 through design and recycled content innovations in its products. Over the past eleven years, Apple is told to has reduced the average energy needed for product use by 73 percent.

Apple’s Climate Roadmap — Expanding energy-effiency

Cupertino already did commit itself to the identification process of new ways to lower energy use at its corporate facilities and help its supply chain make the same transition. Investments in the US-China Green Fund have already been made in the past while the number of facilities participating in Apple’s Supplier Energy Efficiency Program already grew to 92 in 2019. Putting it in numbers, these facilities avoided over 779,000 annualized metric tons of supply chain carbon emissions. In addition, Apple invested in energy efficiency upgrades to over 6.4 million square feet of new and existing buildings last year, lowering electricity needs by nearly one-fifth and saving the company $27 million.

Through a first-of-its-kind investment fund, Apple and 10 of its suppliers in China are investing nearly $300 million to develop projects totaling 1 gigawatt of renewable energy — Photo Credits: Apple

Apple’s Climate Roadmap — Renewable energy

Everything has an end once and so have the well-known, old fossil fuels. „Renewable“ is the word in focus and so Apple commits to remain at 100 percent renewable energy for its operations — focusing on creating new projects and moving its entire supply chain to clean power. For example, new and completed projects in the US-states of Arizona, Oregon, and Illinois bring Apple’s renewable capacity for its corporate operations to over 1 Gigawatts — which is equivalent to powering over 150,000 homes on average a year. Over 80 percent of the renewable energy that Apple sources for its facilities are now from Apple-created projects, benefitting communities and other businesses and closing the circle of sustainability. Having a look on the whole globe, the company is scheduling a launch of one of the largest new solar arrays in Scandinavia as well as two new projects providing power to underserved communities in the Philippines and Thailand.

Apple’s Climate Roadmap — Process and material innovations

The material of our devices is the first point of contact. Considering this and continuously walking the known way, Apple is supporting the development of the first-ever direct carbon-free aluminum smelting process through investments and collaboration with two of its aluminum suppliers. With this announcement yesterday, Cupertino stated that the first batch of this low carbon aluminum is currently being used in production intended for use with the 16-inch MacBook Pro. Through partnerships with its suppliers, Cupertino already reduced emissions from fluorinated gases by more than 242,000 metric tons in 2019. Fluorinated gases are used in the manufacturing of some consumer electronics components and can contribute to global warming so every reduction is a step towards a world we may leave behind for our kids in a better way.

Apple supported the development of an aluminum production method that releases oxygen, rather than greenhouse gases, during the smelting process — Photo Credits: Apple

Apple’s Climate Roadmap — Carbon removal

Carbon has always been there but today, we have the chance to reduce its footprints to nearly zero — if specific conditions are met and the will to change is there. Having a look on this obvious aspect, Apple also commits to invest in forests and other nature-based solutions around the world to remove carbon from the atmosphere. This does happen by a partnership with Conservation International: This named company will invest in new projects, building on learnings from existing work like restoring degraded savannas in Kenya and a vital mangrove ecosystem in Colombia. Mangroves not only protect the coasts and help support the livelihood of those communities where they grow, but they also can store up to 10 times more carbon than forests on land. Through its work with The Conservation Fund, the World Wildlife Fund, and Conservation International, the company has protected and improved the management of over one million acres of forests and natural climate solutions in China, the US, Colombia, and Kenya.

By all means it is great to see that a company like Apple — one of the biggest in the world — is taking this topic so serious. A lot of energy and materials is being spent to produce the devices we use as our daily drivers so giving something back in a way or the other is a great sign — even if we are „just“ the consumers in the end. With companies like Apple bringing this message forward (and we know many other big player do also walk this way, Microsoft also committed to the matter), there seems to be still a hope that mankind makes a turnaround in the topic of preservation of the environment. It’s late (and it always was) but maybe it’s not too late but surely the computing industry is just one piece of the big puzzle and other companies should follow!

Apple’s vision on environment can be found at https://www.apple.com/environment while you may read the complete report at https://www.apple.com/environment/pdf/Apple_Supplier_Clean_Energy_Program_Update_2020.pdf.