Companies are showing that change is both possible and profitable. As we stare down the barrel of a dark future companies are acknowledging the emergence of a new reality that forces them to change the way they do business. Embracing sustainability makes sense even for those who were
slow off the mark. Apple proves that it is possible to transition from a climate Luddite to a climate leader.
Leading corporations are helping to show the way forward and no company has come further in recent years than Apple. The tech leader has not always been an environmental leader. That changed when Tim Cook was named CEO in 2011. He then had the good sense to hire former EPA administrator Lisa Jackson to be the VP of Environment, Policy, and Social Initiatives. Since then the company has significantly improved their sustainability performance while ameliorating working conditions and transparency.
In the last few years Apple has consistently led Greenpeace Tech Company Rankings and they have showed impressive leadership in recycling, renewables, emissions reduction, waste management and water conservation. Apple has vowed to use only recycled materials thereby ending their reliance on newly mined rare minerals and metals. This not only addresses the demands placed on finite resources it also mitigates against risks associated with supply chain shortages. Harvesting the raw materials they need from the billions of discarded phones and other electronics will also have a beneficial impact on waste management.
Apple gets 100 percent of its energy from renewables. Apple has also encouraged their suppliers to do the same. Apple and its suppliers generated over 2.5 billion kWh of clean energy in 2018. Apple’s 2017 Supplier Responsibility progress report indicated the adoption of renewables by several large suppliers will reduce carbon emissions by 7 million metric tons per year by the end of 2018.
and in its inaugural year their supply chain efficiency program reduced carbon emissions by 13,800 metric tons. In 2016, Apple tripled the number of
supplier sites participating in its efficiency program. As of 2017 Apple suppliers had reduced their carbon emissions by
150,000 metric tons.
In 2015 Apple suppliers diverted more than 73,000 metric tons of waste from landfills. In 2016, the company’s suppliers diverted more than 200,000 metric tons of waste from landfills. As reported by Environmental Leader Apple’s 2017 Supplier Responsibility progress report indicates that the company’s suppliers had for the first time achieved 100 percent UL Zero Waste to Landfill validation for all final assembly sites in China. A total of 22 supplier facilities were certified as Zero Waste, including all their iPhone final assembly sites.
All of process chemicals at final assembly facilities were free of Apple-prohibited substances (Apple has identified a list of hazardous chemicals in their Regulated
Substances Specification list). Apple is also working with its suppliers to identify and eliminate the use of these
chemicals at its non-final assembly facilities.
Apple reported that its Clean Water Program saved more than 3.8 billion gallons of freshwater in 2016 representing a 35 percent average reuse rate across 86 sites. Since 2013, Apple’s water management program has saved more than 8 billion gallons of freshwater, Apple says.
The average environment assessment score across Apple’s 705 supply chain assessments in 2016 was 87 out of 100. In 2017, the average environment assessment score among the 756 suppliers was 91 out of 100, and the average health and safety assessment score was 90.
Apple is minimizing its impact on the planet while improving the bottom line and reducing risks. They are also earning excellent reputational benefits and reinforcing the ties with their half billion loyal patrons.
Apple may be a latecomer to the sustainability table but this makes an important point with a message for businesses both large and small. Apple’s corporate turnaround proves that it is not yet too late to let go of the past and embrace the future of commerce.
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