The latest energy report from Apple has stated that the company has hit a new milestone in green energy usage by making all of its 43 data centre sites across the world operate using 100% renewable energy.
Not Quite What It Seems
Although the effort is admirable, the claim that has led Apple's CEO Tim Cook to stress that the company is committed to leaving the world better than it found it, is not as transparent as it appears.
It is not possible for all the data centres to be connected to a completely renewable energy supply at the moment, so what Apple actually means is that the data centres can be 100% 'renewables powered', thanks to the clean energy that Apple buys and puts back into the power grid that can be offset against its global power consumption.
For example, Apple has explained that, where it can’t create new renewable energy projects due to local constraints, the tech giant purchases renewable energy from newer projects in nearby markets, or through available utility green energy programs.
What About The Manufacturing of Phones and iPads?
Some critics have pointed out that the manufacturing of iPhones, iPads and other machines creates carbon emissions. Apple is reported to be taking steps to tackling this less environmentally-friendly aspect of its work by sourcing lower-carbon materials, and by making suppliers commit to using green energy when making Apple hardware.
6 Years of Effort
Apple’s announcement is the culmination of six years of financing, building, or locating new renewable energy sources e.g. solar and wind farms, near the company’s facilities. According to Apple, it now has 25 operational renewable energy projects, and 15 more in construction, spread across in 11 countries. In contrast, 8 years ago, only 16% of its facilities were powered by renewable energy. That number had increased to 93% by 2015, and to 96% by 2016.
Lisa Jackson Hired To Help
One of the ways that Apple has been able to steer itself to its current position on the environmental high ground was to hire former EPA administrator Lisa Jackson as VP of environment, policy, and social initiatives. Lisa Jackson was better known at the time for serving under President Barack Obama 2009 to 2013 to tackle matters such as climate change, improving air quality, and expanding the conservation of environmentalism.
Apple’s goal of going 100% green has meant reducing its greenhouse gas emissions (CO2e) by 58% since 2011, thereby preventing 2.2 million metric tons of CO2e from entering the atmosphere.
Growing The Clean Energy Market Around The Facilities
One of the key ways that Apple has reached its latest milestone target is by growing the clean energy market around the facilities of the company. This has involved working with local utilities and regulators to build places such as new solar or wind farms that pump new green power onto the public grid. This method has worked well in markets where most of the existing energy comes from ecologically unfriendly sources like coal or oil.
What Does This Mean For Your Business?
Some critics would say that with $285 billion in cash reserves, Apple has the money to plough into working towards this environmental goal. However, even though it could afford to buy up existing green power to get to the 100% goal, it has chosen to take adopt an “additionality” standard, which is a preference for sponsoring the creation of new renewable power sources. This, and the idea that it can grow clean energy market around the facilities of the company have been real environmental benefits rather than just paper exercises. Apple has also hired-in expertise to help guide its efforts.
This story is an example of how businesses, albeit a giant (wealthy) tech businesses can choose to operate in a more value-led, socially responsible and ethical way that has wider benefits for society, as well as for the company’s brand image. A greater focus on reducing environmental impact and working to develop more renewable energy sources are things that more companies will need to adopt in the future, and is something that is likely to be valued by customers and other stakeholders.