Apple CEO Tim Cook is currently in Beijing, where he has already attracted 300,000 (and climbing) people to follow his newly created profile on giant Chinese social network, Sina Weibo. The profile first appeared this morning.
“Hello China! Happy to be back in Beijing, announcing innovative new environmental programs,” he writes.
Apple’s new environmental programs aim to significantly increase use of clean energy across the company's Chinese manufacturing chain while ensuring product packaging comes from sustainable sources.
“Apple today announced an expansion of its renewable energy and environmental protection initiatives in China, including a new multi-year project with World Wildlife Fund to significantly increase responsibly managed forests across China. The new forestland program aims to protect as much as 1 million acres of responsibly managed working forests which provide fiber for pulp, paper and wood products.”
China is the world’s biggest timber importer. “Apple’s support for this project and its environmental leadership show that protecting forests is not just good for society but important for business,” said Lo Sze Ping, WWF China CEO.
Also read: 5 (Apple) steps to save the planet
Apple became more visible in addressing the environmental consequences of manufacturing in 2007, when Steve Jobs promised: “Apple is already a leader in innovation and engineering, and we are applying these same talents to become an environmental leader.”
Clearing the air
Apple has since become far more transparent in environmental reporting. It has launched numerous initiatives, including huge investments in renewable energy, continued attempts to eradicate harmful substances from its supply chain, made public commitments to reduce use of conflict minerals and more, hired former U.S. EPA head Lisa Jackson as vice president of environmental initiatives. Greenpeace has praised it for this.
Today, Apple claims 100 percent of its US operations/data centers and 87 percent of its global operations run on renewable energy.
Critics have always maintained Apple needs to pay similar attention to its manufacturing chain. Now it has.
Apple launched its first major solar project in China three weeks ago, a solar farm in Sichuan Province that will generate more energy than Apple’s corporate and retail offices use.
“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,” said Cook.
“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.”
China desperately needs greener manufacturing. Coal accounts for about 60 percent of China’s CO2 emissions. Air pollution is so severe there that the population already faces higher rates of cancer, breathing problems and real risk of premature death.
China’s leaders aim to reduce emissions by 26%-28% below 2005 levels by 2025. The country’s top meteorologist warned global warming threatens major national infrastructure projects.
Climate change or not, it clearly makes sense to reduce pollution and improve air quality – particularly if you need to breath.
Perhaps this is why hundreds of thousands of Chinese now follow Cook on Weibo; Apple already makes some of the most popular products you can get in China, but its attempt to green the supply chain promises tangible benefits to their lives.
It will be interesting to see if other manufacturers emulate Apple’s green finger, because those that don’t will disappear from history as swiftly as they blip out of the consciousness of Chinese consumers.
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