Apple has become the latest major tech firm to commit to carbon neutrality, with the firm noting that it wants to be 100% carbon neutral across its entire supply chain by 2030.
Unlike some other tech firms who have committed to carbon neutrality, Apple already has a good track record when it comes to its environmental commitments. That’s because the firm is already carbon neutral for corporate emissions worldwide, although it wants to extend that to its entire supply chain within the next 10 years.
The carbon neutrality commitment will be significant for reducing emissions globally, as it will mean all Apple devices purchased will be completely carbon neutral. Of course, that will require Apple to work with its suppliers to ensure they’re cutting their carbon emissions to zero.
What does Apple want to achieve?
Apple is targeting a 75% reduction in its emissions by 2030, with the remaining 25% towards its net zero goal coming from carbon removal solutions. The firm is also hoping to utilise more electricity produced by renewable sources, with Apple noting that over 80% of the renewable energy that Apple sources comes from projects that Apple created.
“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.”
“We’re proud of our environmental journey and the ambitious roadmap we have set for the future,” added 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.”
How will Apple achieve carbon neutrality?
Apple’s quest for carbon neutrality comes in several forms, including the use of renewable energy, the move to more environmentally friendly materials, an increase in the number of its devices being recycled, as well as the use of carbon capture technologies.
Renewable energy: Apple will remain at 100% renewable energy for its operations — focusing on creating new projects and moving its entire supply chain to clean power.
Apple now has commitments from over 70 suppliers to use 100% renewable energy for Apple production — equivalent to nearly 8GW in commitments to power the manufacturing of its products. Once completed, these commitments will avoid over 14.3 million metric tons of CO2e annually — the equivalent of taking more than 3 million cars off the road each year.
New and completed projects in Arizona, Oregon, and Illinois bring Apple’s renewable capacity for its corporate operations to over 1GW — equivalent to powering over 150,000 homes a year. Over 80% of the renewable energy that Apple sources for its facilities are now from Apple-created projects, benefiting communities and other businesses.
Globally, Apple is launching 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.
Expanding energy efficiency: Apple will identify new ways to lower energy use at its corporate facilities and help its supply chain make the same transition.
Through a new partnership with Apple, the US-China Green Fund will invest $100 million in accelerated energy efficiency projects for Apple’s suppliers.
The number of facilities participating in Apple’s Supplier Energy Efficiency Program grew to 92 in 2019; these facilities avoided over 779,000 annualized metric tons of supply chain carbon emissions.
Last year, Apple invested in energy efficiency upgrades to over 6.4 million square feet of new and existing buildings, lowering electricity needs by nearly one-fifth and saving the company $27 million.
Carbon removal: Apple is investing in forests and other nature-based solutions around the world to remove carbon from the atmosphere.
Apple has announced a first-of-its-kind carbon solutions fund to invest in the restoration and protection of forests and natural ecosystems globally.
In partnership with Conservation International, the 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 1 million acres of forests and natural climate solutions in China, the US, Colombia, and Kenya.
Low carbon product design: Apple 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. This will be especially important considering electrical waste has hit an all-time-high in the UK.
Apple’s latest recycling innovation — a robot the company is calling “Dave” — disassembles the Taptic Engine from iPhone to better recover key materials such as rare earth magnets and tungsten while also enabling recovery of steel, the next step following its line of “Daisy” iPhone disassembly robots.
The company’s Material Recovery Lab in Austin, Texas, which is focused on innovative electronics recycling technology, is now partnering with Carnegie Mellon University to further develop engineering solutions.
All iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch devices released in the past year are made with recycled content, including 100 percent recycled rare earth elements in the iPhone Taptic Engine — a first for Apple and for any smartphone.
Apple decreased its carbon footprint by 4.3 million metric tons in 2019 through design and recycled content innovations in its products. Over the past 11 years, Apple has reduced the average energy needed for product use by 73 percent.
Process and material innovations: Apple will tackle emissions through technological improvements to processes and materials needed for its products.
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.
The company also announced 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, Apple 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.
How does Apple’s carbon neutrality commitment compare to other tech firms?
Microsoft has made the boldest pledge thus far, promising not only to become carbon neutral, but for the firm to become carbon negative by 2030. That includes not just its own emissions but those of its supply chain too. In fact, the firm noted that by 2050 it wants to have removed all of the carbon it has ever emitted into the atmosphere.
Meanwhile on the other end of the spectrum, Amazon’s pledge is a little more basic. Amazon wants to achieve carbon neutrality by 2040, although has noted that it wants to be wholly reliant on renewable power for its energy by 2030. The company has said that its AWS data centres are already some of the most efficient in the world, but of course it wants to increase that efficiency even further. The real problem with Amazon’s commitment, however, is that the 2040 date appears to mainly be focused on corporate emissions. The retailer doesn’t expect to have net zero emissions on its shipping operations until 2050.