Apple teams up with US firms to push for clean energy

Apple is working with a variety of large US corporations, including Nike, to launch the Clean Energy Procurement Academy. It’s an attempt to empower other companies with the technical knowledge they need (and Apple has) to adopt clean energy and support supply chain decarbonization.

Supply chains account for more than 50% of global greenhouse gas emissions, so it makes sense to attempt to decarbonize that sector. Apple maintains some leadership in its own attempts at decarbonization, and has increased the use of renewable electricity across its supply chain by almost 30% in 2022.

We do need some education

Apple and Nike got the project off the ground through the Clean Energy Buyers Institute’s (CEBI) Global Program, which was launched in 2022 with funding from Google. Amazon, Meta, PepsiCo, and REI Co-op all signed up to support the scheme.

Famously, all of Apple’s retail stores, data centers, and offices source 100% renewable energy.

The big idea behind the new group is to advocate for the provision of clean energy in all regions and equip other companies with the resources they need to make that happen. This matters to corporations. They know consumers are taking these matters increasingly more seriously. Recent research from GfK found climate change to be one of the fastest-growing concerns among consumers. 

Reading between the lines of the latest initiative, it seems likely Apple has leaned into what it has learned from its own Supplier Clean Energy Program to help resource the academy. That effort offers Apple’s manufacturing partners information, training materials, data, and expert advice.

Wish you were here

“To address the climate crisis, we need to act quickly to expand access to clean energy around the world. Businesses can help drive that change,” said Sarah Chandler, Apple’s vice president of environment and supply chain innovation. “As we make progress to ensure every Apple product is carbon neutral by 2030, we will continue to work closely with our global suppliers to support their transition to renewable energy. We’re proud to collaborate with CEBA and others to expand those efforts beyond our supply chain and across industries.”

So, what are the big US corporations offering via the Academy?

First, industry leaders have pooled their expertise and internal training resources to create a shared training curriculum and delivery processes to help companies “rapidly mature as clean energy customers.”

They also aim to help industries and companies work together to solve these challenges.

The resources provided should enable participating companies to:

  • Boost supply chain companies’ capacity to invest in renewable energy through education and data accessibility.
  • Foster synergy among different industries tackling shared challenges in supply chain climate action.
  • Encourage supply chain companies to escalate their renewable energy goals and commitments.
  • Establish new renewable energy-buying communities in pivotal manufacturing regions.

“Climate change threatens the prosperity of people and communities, especially those within our business’ agricultural supply chain with threats to biodiversity, temperature extremes, adverse weather events, droughts, and coastal flooding, and more,” said Roberta Barbieri, PepsiCo vice president for global sustainability. 

One of these days

Apple CEO Tim Cook has made numerous statements about his company’s efforts at decarbonization. He frequently says Apple wants competitors to do what the company is doing and has expressed willingness to share information to help them. This is precisely what this latest initiative seems to be.

Earlier this month, Cook said that while Apple is secretive when it comes to its products, it does not want to keep secrets concerning its environmental work. Speaking at Apple’s data center in Denmark, he said: “It is different with our initiatives like the environment. We want to be very open because we want to be copied…, we want to be the ripple in the pond that other people can look at and copy.”

Us and them

Quite rightly for a thought leader, Apple’s commitment to the environment is frequently under scrutiny. Most recently, European environmental and consumer groups slammed Apple’s decision to sell what it describes as a “carbon neutral” Apple Watch because the claim relies on carbon credits to offset the consequences of production.

“Carbon neutral claims are scientifically inaccurate and mislead consumers,” Monique Goyens director-general of European consumer organization BEUC told the Financial Times. “The EU’s recent decision to ban carbon neutral claims will rightly clear the market of such bogus messages, and Apple Watches should be no exception.”

Apple, however, likely argues that it only makes use of “high quality” carbon offsets, such as managed forests and grasslands designed to suck carbon from the atmosphere. Apple is at the very least making a big effort at being transparent in its claims. Many competitors continue to fail to make any account whatsoever of the emissions generated by their business.

It seems reasonable to expect environmental groups to throw some vitriol at those companies, even while scrutinizing Apple’s approach.

High hopes

According to Apple’s most recent Environmental Responsibility Report, the use of clean energy across the company’s supply chain has increased five-fold since 2019. Over 85% of its suppliers have committed to using renewable energy for all Apple-related production by 2030.

Apple’s stated aim is to become completely carbon neutral across all its products by 2030. Indeed, even the visitor badges used at its recent Apple Watch launch event were made of recycled materials.

Responding to Europe’s criticism’s, Apple said

“Our approach to decarbonizing products offers a rigorous blueprint for how businesses can do their part, prioritizing deep emissions reductions across our value chain before applying high-quality carbon credits.”

The company’s support for the Clean Energy Procurement Academy suggests it is willing to share what it has learned so far, while the criticism of aspects of its approach remains the kind of scrutiny any large corporation attempting to take such steps should be exposed to. “We’re doing the hard work to lower our footprint dramatically,” Cook said in Denmark. “Greenwashing is reprehensible.”

Of course, those claims will be tested, but they do seem to be a positive step.

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Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.

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