Apple is perhaps the leading private company in the world on environmental matters. Every year, it releases a comprehensive Environmental Responsibility Report that details the work the company is doing to reduce its impact on climate change and using green materials.
Apple has nearly $200 billion in cash to spend and, even with its environmental activism, the company still reports incredible margins and record profits. So, its green spending hasn't affected the bottom line and may encourage some customers to spend more with the company than they otherwise might—and it looks good to investors, governments, and non-governmental organizations like Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
The WFF is especially significant because of a new program Apple has initiated in partnership with them. China is of increasing importance to Apple. It accounted for almost a third of Apple's revenue last quarter and, as the country's enormous middle class continues to grow even larger, it will likely account for a larger chunk of the company's bottom line going forward.
The country is also incredibly polluted, so much so that the US Consulate in Shanghai tweets out hourly updates on the city's pollutants. This makes Apple's environmental work in the country even more important.
Apple has formed a multi-year partnership with the WWF to protect as much as one million acres of responsibly managed forest. It's looking to have a net-zero impact on the world supply of virgin fiber, which is paper made without the use of recycled or sustainable trees.
"Forests, like energy, can be renewable resources," said Lisa Jackson, Apple's vice president of Environmental Initiatives. "We believe we can run on naturally renewable resources and ensure that we protect—and create—as much sustainable working forest as needed to produce the virgin paper in our product packaging."
Owning forests for the raw materials isn't particularly unusual. The New York Times owned a newsprint mill with Kimberly-Clark until 1991. It isn't clear if Apple will own the Chinese forest or if it's just providing the funding to keep the forest from being clear cut. China is the world's biggest timber importer, with a chunk of that lumber being used for manufacturing product packaging.
It will be paired with a previously announced solar project in China that will include two solar farms totaling 40 megawatts of power generation. The farms will provide more energy than Apple uses to power all its corporate offices and retail stores in the country, and Apple said yesterday that it plans to expand its renewable energy products to cover its partner manufacturing facilities in the country.
Apple says the Chinese solar farms will provide 80 million kilowatt hours of energy each year, enough to power the equivalent of 61,000 Chinese homes with clean energy that "would otherwise not" exist, according to the company's press release.
It also notes that the projects are "carefully designed to minimize their ecological impact" and also to "protect the grasslands that support the yak population," something that is important to the local economy in Sichuan Province where the facility will be located.
In the press release, Lo Sze Ping, CEO of WWF China, says the hope is that the deal "will catalyze a new model of corporate leadership" for forest management and efficient use of paper resources.
Is Apple's environmental work important to you? Does it make you more or less likely to buy from or invest in the company? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
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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.