Data Centers

Apple, Google, and Microsoft pledge to spend billions to fight climate change

The tech companies will invest in new clean energy for data centers, transportation, and other facilities.

Apple's solar farm in Hongyuan, China.
Image: Apple

As part of its continuing commitment to improve the environment, Apple has partnered with 12 other major companies and the White House and has taken the American Business Act on Climate Pledge.

The pledge includes agreements by the companies to spend some $140 billion in low-carbon investment and 1,600 megawatts of new renewable energy generation. Other company-specific goals target carbon emissions, water use, and more.

Apple has already met many of these goals on its own (which was made easier by its large cash pile and hefty profit margins) by running all its US operations and worldwide data centers on 100% renewable energy, and 87% of its total global operations on renewable energy.

In The White House press release announcing the pledge, all of the companies specify what they'll do to help the environment.

Apple pledges to bring 280 megawatts of clean power online by the end of 2016 across Arizona, California, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, and Sichuan Province, China — all places with Apple-owned data centers. Apple states that it has reduced carbon emissions from corporate facilities, data centers, and retail stores by 48% since 2011.

Other companies in the pledge include Alcoa, Bank of America, Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Cargill, Coca-Cola, GM, Goldman Sachs, PepsiCo, UPS, Walmart, and two tech giants: Google and Microsoft.

Google has pledged to spend billions to power its operations with 100% renewable energy, as well as use shuttle buses and corporately-owned electric vehicles to avoid 87 million vehicle miles per year, and reduce water, energy, and trash use at its California headquarters. The company is also providing software and cloud computing time and storage to power climate and weather models.

Microsoft's pledge is similar to Apple's. The company says it will continue running carbon neutral operations across its data centers, offices, labs, and manufacturing. For business air travel, Microsoft will purchase 100% renewable energy for its global operations and support carbon offset projects.

Apple is one of the few companies pledging to build its own power generation, with other companies promising to build clean energy for use by others or to purchase clean energy from utilities. Apple's corporate-owned energy generation facilities might take a lot of upfront capital, but the company will have more consistent and predictable energy prices going forward — a valuable thing for one of the world's largest companies.

For Apple, the environmental spending is primarily because the company believes in the cause, but being able to eliminate significant fluctuations in energy costs (which will likely increase over the next few decades) as well as ensure reliable access to power (and which may be just as important) will also be valuable.

As customers become more environmentally conscious, they will want the companies they buy from to be green too.

Does a company's environmentalism matter when you are purchasing products? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

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About Jordan Golson

Jordan Golson is an Apple Columnist for TechRepublic. He also writes about technology and automobiles for WIRED and MacRumors. He has worked for Apple Retail twice and has been writing about technology since 2007.

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