Apple

Apple is leading the way on corporate environmentalism

The iPhone-maker has released its 2015 Environmental Responsibility Report, outlining its progress in keeping green.

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

As it has for the past several years, Apple this week released its 2015 Environmental Responsibility Report. It's a 35-page look [PDF] at how Apple is doing at keeping green—everything from gasoline use in fleet vehicles to the company's recent purchase of 36,000 acres of renewable forest, so it will have access to renewable materials for its packaging.

In a letter introducing the report, written by VP of Environmental Initiatives Lisa Jackson (former head of the EPA), Apple's goal is said to "make not just the best products in the world, but the best products for the world."

According to Jackson, Apple has three main environmental priorities:

  • Reduce the company's impact on climate change by using renewable energy sources and driving energy efficiency in its products
  • Conserve precious resources so everyone can thrive
  • Pioneer the use of greener materials in its products and processes

Apple tracks both the carbon footprint of its own operations and supply chain (which it's ultimately responsible for, in its view). Manufacturing takes the lions share, generating some 24.8 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions. Facilities, transportation, and recycling accounts for another 9.4 million metric tons, while the actual usage of Apple's products over the course of 2014 generated another 7 million metric tons.

Apple saw a 7% drop in carbon emissions from product use from 2013 to 2014, thanks to improved energy efficiency of its products, while there was a 5% increase in manufacturing emissions, which Apple attributed to production needs of increased memory and storage capacity in iOS devices and notebooks. To keep improving, the company is working with its supply chain partners to get greener up and down the chain.

A total 100% of Apple's US operations are running on renewable energy, and they're up to 87% of worldwide operations. That includes all of Apple's data centers (which are built in locations specifically chosen for their access to clean power), all corporate offices, and more than 450 retail stores. Apple is using solar, wind, hydro-electric, biogas fuel cells, and geothermal sources, along with ultra-efficient building designs to use as little energy as possible.

Buildings are big users of electricity, but Apple is looking small, too. Apple has cut the volume of packaging for the iPhone by more than a third between the original iPhone and the iPhone 6, and two-thirds of most of its product packaging comes from recycled content.

Apple is also focused on recycling, one of the key areas where it can make an impact. The company now accepts every product it sells for recycling at all its retail stores. In total, Apple recycled 11,800 metric tons of steel, 5,900 tons of plastic, and 5,700 tons of glass from CRT displays in 2014, plus thousands of more tons in other materials. That's a lot of waste to keep out of landfills!

The report gets really deep, noting that the majority of food served in its Cupertino cafeterias is sourced within 100 miles. Apple has reduced its landscape watering by 40%, something particularly important in California.

The full report is worth reading for any environmentally-conscious company, and while it might seem easy for Apple to stay green with its record-profits, the report makes it very clear that nearly every company can do something to become more environmentally friendly.

Apple's 2015 Environmental Responsibility Report is available in PDF form on its website.

Does Apple's environmental consciousness make you more likely to purchase its products? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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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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