By Chand Bellur
July 21, 2020 at 2:22 p.m. PT
- Apple recently issued an environmental progress report on its current state of conservation efforts.
- The report pledges that Apple products will be carbon-neutral by 2030.
- Apple’s corporate operations, including travel, are now 100% carbon-neutral.
Apple Claims Corporate Operations Are Now Carbon-Neutral
Carbon-neutral is a complex and contested concept. At its most basic, conceptual level, it means that corporations invest in environmental projects to offset emissions and pollution. Entities also approach carbon-neutrality by investing in clean energy, recycling, and other actions with direct environmental impact.
Science shows that climate change is real, despite some believing it’s a hoax. No matter how much evidence there is, a certain segment of society will always doubt science in favor of conspiracy theories. Fortunately, the majority of consumers purchasing durable goods are educated and informed. Corporations need to appease these high-value consumers by taking environmental action.
Corporations are amoral and only care about profits. This means that consumers can take them to task, as corporations are deeply concerned about their public image. Corporations embrace the struggle for racial equality, environmentalism, and LGBTQ politics for PR value. It’s one of the most cost-effective methods to build and market a brand.
Regardless of the motivation, Apple’s commitment to the environment is real and beneficial. Beyond 100% carbon-neutral corporate operations, the company pledges to achieve the same standard for its entire product line and supply chain by 2030.
Apple to Achieve Carbon-Neutral Products and Supply Chain by 2030
Drilling down into the report, Apple’s claims don’t mesh with reality. If one reads the headlines and introduction, it appears as though Apple’s operations are carbon neutral. Later in the report, they admit reducing their carbon footprint by only 35% from its peak in 2015. Apple’s operations use 100% renewable energy; however, the company is far from being carbon-neutral.
Apple pledges to be fully carbon-neutral by 2030. This process involves changing the way every manufacturer in their supply-chain does business. This is entirely possible, as Apple orders tens of millions of parts from suppliers, unlike any other corporation. This enables Apple to negotiate exclusive deals and apply higher standards to manufacturing partners.
Ending mining of rare earth elements is another environmentally decisive goal for Apple. Currently, iPhone production uses 100% recycled rare earth elements. Their goal is to expand recycling to every Apple product. Given that the Mac, iPhone, and iPad are converging to use many of the same components, this seems like a realistic goal.
Apple Synergizes Environmentalism and Racial Equality
Apple isn’t embracing environmentalism, racial equality, and other social issues solely to do the right thing. It’s mostly about public relations and catering to consumer demands. Apple takes it to the extent of leveraging synergies on prevalent political causes, combining environmentalism with the struggle for racial equality.
As part of their environmental endeavors, Apple will invest in minority-owned businesses. A $100 million fund provides opportunities and support for a wide range of minority causes, including education, criminal justice reform, and economic equality. While this may seem benevolent, it appears to be more of an optimization. Support for minority business gets a brief mention in the first few pages, and nowhere else in the 99-page report.
Apple, Just Pay Your Fair Share of Taxes
For all the public relations and patting themselves on the back, Apple continues to evade most taxation. The company claims to pay more taxes than any other corporation. While this may be true, they hide profits in offshore tax havens. This makes it easy to dodge taxation and manipulate profitability.
The root cause of minority disenfranchisement is education. Poorly educated Americans tend to be bigots. Minorities often attend inadequate schools staffed by teachers with little experience. If corporations paid their fair share of taxes, education could be radically improved. Instead, they prefer to engage in high profile philanthropy that’s virtually ineffective.
Apple isn’t the only corporation that does this. It’s just that they managed to extract so much PR value from so little action. All the while, they pay very little in taxes, robbing the nation of much-needed funds to build infrastructure and essential services.
The best thing we can do for the environment is to educate people that climate change isn’t a hoax. How can we do this when corporations don’t pay their fair share of taxes? If we can improve education, perhaps 20% of Americans wouldn’t believe climate change is a hoax. Perhaps paying taxes doesn’t give Apple the best PR value, but it would significantly increase budgets for education, healthcare, and environmental action.