• Shamsher Mann

Serious About Sustainability - Is Apple the Company of the Future?

Apple is the world’s first trillion dollar company (as of late October 2018)- leading in technology, innovation and creativity. As of Apple’s Q3 earnings report, these key figures stand out:

  • $53,265 M in revenue (Q3 earnings).

  • 41.3m iPhones sold.

  • 11.5m iPads sold.

  • 3.7 macs sold.

Analysis of the Q3 report suggests that the sale of new products are increasing by 17%, consequently Apple is expected to ethically source or better yet, re-use materials.

Greenpeace – How do the ratings affect Apple and what do they mean?

Since 2007, Apple has dedicated time and effort to reduce their global footprint, and this has certainly paid off. From starting materials to the finished product, Apple has promised to scale back the excess toxic waste from its factories – according to Apple’s green report (supplementary to the quarterly financial reports), the majority of their factories now operate using 100 percent renewable energy. In addition, Greenpeace’s own reports highly commend Apple and Google to be the leading technology companies who have matched their increases in revenue growth with an equivalent or larger usage of renewable energies. With Greenpeace ratings of ‘A’, this means that Apple has done well in the following subcategories where sustainability is the biggest issue - energy transparency, renewable energy commitment, energy efficiency and mitigation, and renewable procurement.

Lisa Jackson, Apple’s Vice President of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives said the following about their ongoing 2018 responsibility report – “More than a decade ago, we started to transition our electricity use to renewable sources. Today, we’re proud to power 100 percent of our operations around the world with 100 percent renewable energy. That means every Apple data center, retail store, corporate office, and colocation facility in 43 countries around the world now runs on clean power.”

Apple being a leader in environmental issues – Two green bonds amounting to $2.5 billion

It is remarkable to know that Apple was one of the first tech companies to issue green bonds. Being the largest of any U.S corporation to date, $1.5 billion was issued in 2016 and has now reached $2.5 billion – two green bonds in total. With this amount of capital available, Apple has allocated an impressive $495.9m to green building projects, with new ‘green buildings’ set up beyond Apple Park, assisting the much-needed expansion of Apple data sites.

The new buildings amount to almost 4,690,000 square feet (approximately 1.7x the square footage of the Empire State Building). Japan’s latest facility boasts onsite rainwater capture systems – a reduction in 75 percent water usage (typically compared to the international building code rules which allow sites to operate at levels much more than this). Apple taking initiative and driving towards more environmentally-run offices is paramount if sustainability is the end goal, rather than merely a legal requirement that must be obeyed.

In addition, Apple has actively started to introduce its Hardware Reuse Program, allowing users to exchange their old products with a generous discount on the latest products by Apple. With average savings of 38% for consumers buying new products, this move has allowed Apple to extend its product life cycle. With the user’s old products, their units are rigorously tested to establish the usability and alterations are made if necessary. Then, existing parts and components are replaced, and finally distributed for internal use by Apple employees. By the end of 2017, Apple had reported that 50 metric tons of material had successfully been reused.

Still a long way to go?

With Apple’s green bonds only being issued for a relatively short time, it is important to continue keeping an eye on future earnings reports – whilst we can expect the green bonds to go a long way, Apple’s commitment to sustainability needs to continue. Greenpeace has ranked Apple sixth in Greenpeace’s Guide to Greener Electronics; ranking below house brands like Dell and HP but above others such as Samsung and Sony. Greenpeace also noted that Apple could improve on their “Lack of Transparency” issues.

Apple’s latest product, the new MacBook Air, has been revealed to have a 100 percent re-used aluminium shell. By incorporating innovative technology, Apple has been able to extract small fibres of waste aluminium and compress them to create a new custom alloy. This is a breakthrough for Apple. Nonetheless, its retail pricing still remains high with starting models above $999. Although savings have been made using reused material instead of sourcing new aluminum, the question as to why reduced costs haven’t been passed down to consumers is a topic of debate. In our environmentally conscious society, should these products be priced at a premium? Should sustainability be justified at higher expenses for consumers?

Amidst the constant increases in product ranges and mounting pressures to meet consumer demand, Apple must ensure that it can keep its sustainability practices up and continue to reduce the environmental damage caused during manufacturing. Although the green bonds have helped reduce excess wastage of energy and streamlined Apple’s core production lines, the bonds must continue to be issued. If global tech firms such as Amazon and Uber follow suit with the green bond initiative, the environmental benefits could yield returns of almost quadruple than what Apple is currently producing. If these gains were to be realised and there was a stronger movement towards green finance, what will the impact have by then?

By Shamsher Mann

References used:

Hall, Z (2018). Apple announces Q3 2018 revenue of $53.3b: 41.3m iPhones, 11.5m iPads, 3.7m Macs. [Online] Accessed: 22/11/18

Apple Inc. Q3 Unaudited Summary Data (2018). [Online]

Scheer, R and Moss,D (2014). Is Apple Really Serious About Sustainability? . [Online] Accessed: 20/11/18

Annual Green Bond Impact Report 2017 Update. . [Online] Accessed: 21/11/18

Moloney, C (2017). Is Apple a Sustainable Company? [Online] Accessed: 22/11/18

Brightwell, R (2018). How green are green bonds? . [Online] Accessed: 14/01/2019