By Rachel Roberts
Last Monday, Apple released its 2015 Environmental Responsibility Report. The report was released amidst another announcement by Apple regarding the company’s partnership with The Conservation Fund. Apple will be working with the non-profit to help protect over 36,000 acres of America’s working forest. Working forests are forests that provide ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration, water filtration, flood control, and recreational opportunities.
The early pages of the report summarized Apple’s commitment to preventing climate change. The report stated, “We don’t want to debate climate change. We want to stop it. We’ve made real progress in reducing the impact of the things we control directly—in our offices, retail stores, and products. But there’s still a lot of work to be done to reduce the carbon footprint in our supply chain. And it’s our responsibility to lead that effort.”
In the past, Apple has come under fire for its environmental record and the impacts that its products have on the earth. According to Stephen Stokes, vice president of business and climate change at AMR Research Inc., “Apple is… guilty of using ‘green’ as a marketing ploy rather than making green a core part of their business practices.”
Concerns have been raised about toxic components within the iPhone and other devices. According to Greenpeace, Apple is “withholding its full list of regulated substances” and currently has inadequate policies related to product take-back and recycling. Last year, Apple was accused of dumping chemicals into nearby rivers in China and questions were raised regarding employee working conditions in the country.
Apple’s Environmental Responsibility Report acknowledged the significant environmental impact that manufacturing electronic devices has, especially in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, paper use, and the use of toxic substances in its devices.
Between 2013 and 2014, Apple increased its overall carbon footprint. Although Apple is working to make its products less carbon-intensive during manufacturing and use, this increase is primarily because Apple has been selling more of its products.
Although the report fails to address the amount of paper used to package Apple products, it did state that during the 2014 fiscal year, “over 80 percent of the paper and corrugated cardboard used in our iPhone, iPad, iPod, Mac, and Apple TV packaging came from certified sustainably managed forests, controlled wood sources, or recycled materials.”
The report also addressed the use of toxic substances in Apple electronics, stating that the company’s goal is to “make not just the best products in the world, but the best products for the world.” Apple stated that it is looking for effective ways to reduce or eliminate toxic materials from its electronics for the sake of both environmental and human health.
Furthermore, the report highlighted the fact that Apple’s data centers, corporate offices and retail stores in the United States in addition to 87 percent of its global facilities are run on renewable energy. The data centers in the United States have been using 100 percent renewable power since 2012.
Apple joins commitments by both Microsoft and Google to help reduce causes of climate change. Both Microsoft and Google have already criticized government inactions over climate change and have taken steps to reduce their carbon footprint. With these three influential tech companies shedding light on some of the technological impacts of climate change, hopefully more will be done to reduce these impacts.
Apple’s report was a step in the right direction for the company. Hopefully Apple will continue to make improvements and more companies will follow in their lead.