Amazing Apple Tackles the Big One: 100% Renewable Energy Supply Chain

Apple is moving along on its goal to be completely powered by renewable energy and is racheting it up:

  • its mammoth supply chain will also reach 100% renewable energy
  • protecting the forests that provide paper for its product packaging through "net-zero" impact

Last month, Apple announced its first solar projects in China, which will more than power its 19 corporate offices and 22 retail stores there. As in its US solar projects, SunPower is the developer. Construction has begun on two, 20 megawatt solar farms with "light footprint" technology, designed to coexist with grasslands that support the yak population.

SunPower is combining single-axis trackers with rows of parabolic mirrors that will "provide up to 80,000 megawatt-hours a year while also protecting the ecosystem."

SunPower is in a joint venture with Chinese partners to develop and own at least 3 GW of solar projects there.

Referring to Apple’s supply chain goal, CEO Tim Cook says:
"We’ve set an example by greening our data centers, retail stores and corporate offices, and we’re ready to start leading the way toward reducing carbon emissions from manufacturing. This won’t happen overnight – in fact, it will take years – but it’s important work that has to happen, and Apple is in a unique position to take the initiative toward this ambitious goal. It is a responsibility we accept. We are excited to work with leaders in our supply chain who want to be on the cutting edge of China’s green transformation."

Clearly, converting its supply chain to renewables is a gargantuan task – it consumes about 60 times as much electricity as Apple. 

Apple currently runs on 100% renewable energy in the US, and 87% worldwide, mostly on solar, but also wind, biogas, fuel cells, geothermal and small hydropower.   

Apple is buying half the output of the California Flats Solar Project to power all operations in the state, including its headquarters:

Apple Spaceship Design

Even with all this, Apple’s total emissions rose by 1% from 2013-2014 –  the most recent data available – because of more sales and more memory-intensive manufacturing. Since 2011, however, Apple has cut emissions 48%, and since 2008, emissions are down 61% from customers using their products.

Apple Gets Into Forest Conservation

In another first for the company, Apple wants to eliminate its footprint from forests as well as power by making sure all its  paper comes from sustainably managed forests. 

The best way to do that is to own the forest and the supply chain, instead of buying pulp or paper from outside vendors.

In the US, a partnership with the Conservation Fund will permanently preserve 36,000 acres in Maine and North Carolina, managing forestry sustainably.

"Apple is clearly leading by example – one that we hope others will follow," says Larry Selzer, CEO of The Conservation Fund. "The loss of America’s working forests is one of our nation’s greatest environmental challenges. The initiative announced today is precedent-setting."

In China, Apple is working with World Wildlife Fund to protect about 1 million acres of responsibly managed working forests. 

"This collaboration between our two organizations will seek to reduce China’s ecological footprint by helping produce more wood from responsibly managed forests within its own borders. Doing so is essential to China, the world’s biggest timber importer. Our hope is this will catalyze a new model of corporate leadership in promoting sustainable forest management and using paper resources more efficiently and responsibly around the world," says Lo Sze Ping, CEO of WWF China.

Over 80% of Apple’s packaging is currently either recycled or  from sustainably managed forests, it says.

Read Apple’s 2015 Environmental Progress Report – it’s really well done:

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