Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Apple Makes Sustainability Investments in China

Apple is making China greener and expanding their market presence. From solar farms, to forests and greener supply chains Apple is making some serious sustainability focused investments in China.

Apple CEO Tim Cook is presently in China. He announced his arrival on his new Weibo account (the Chinese equivalent of Twitter). He said that he is in China to launch, "innovative environmental programs." As of Tuesday morning Cook already had 400,000 followers.

While the Chinese smartphone market has contracted by 4 percent this year Apple's sales are expanding. Apple is currently the largest smart phone vendor in China selling more iPhones in that country than in the US. Apple's sales in China have expanded by 71 percent to reach $16.8 billion

Cook said he was in China to promote Apple's forest management efforts, a project the company has undertaken in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund. This project aims to protect as much as 1 million acres of responsibly managed working forests in China. These forests provide fiber for pulp, paper and wood products. Apple has set a goal to achieve a net-zero impact on the world’s supply of sustainable virgin fiber.

Apple is also planning to build two 20 MW solar farms in China. Taken together the two projects will generate up to 80 million kWh per year. These projects are being built in partnership with Sichuan Shengtian New Energy Development, and SunPower. The solar plants are located in Sichuan Province and they will generate more energy than needed to power all of Apple’s 19 corporate offices and 22 retail stores in the country. Apple plans to increase its use of renewable energy around the world from over 80 percent today to 100 percent in the coming years.

In addition to generating solar power these projects have been carefully designed to minimize their ecological impact and protect the grasslands that support the yak population.

"Apple's announcement today is a significant first step toward addressing its energy footprint in China, and sets an important precedent for other companies that have operations in China," said Greenpeace USA Senior IT Sector Analyst Gary Cook.

"The next step for Apple should be to work with its suppliers to power its manufacturing operations in China with 100% renewable energy." Greenpeace East Asia Senior Renewable Campaigner Yuan Ying said

Apple appears to have taken Ying's advice serious. They recently announced that they will transition to greener manufacturing in China over the coming years. In addition to greening their supply chain in that country they are cutting back on their carbon emissions from their product manufacturing.

Apple also conducts routine audits of its manufacturers focusing on finding and correcting any environmental violations. Last year, the company worked with the manufacturers to reduce water use and prevent water pollution.

Apple is bringing corporate sustainability to China and this is an investment that is already yielding massive dividends.

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