AS technology company Apple seeks to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030, 71 of its suppliers have committed to using 100% renewable energy for the company’s products.
On 21 July, Apple unveiled its plan to achieve carbon neutrality across its entire business, manufacturing supply chain, and product lifecycle by 2030. This would bring the company’s entire carbon footprint to net zero 20 years before targets set by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). IPCC is the United Nations body responsible for assessing the science related to climate change, and says that limiting global warming to 1.5°C requires global net human-caused CO2 emissions to reach net zero by around 2050.
Manufacturing emissions account for about three-quarters of Apple’s overall carbon footprint, most of which are from the electricity used to make the parts in its products. As part of its goal for carbon neutrality, Apple now aims to transition the electricity used across its entire manufacturing supply chain – including material extraction, component manufacturing, and final product assembly – to 100% renewable by 2030.
Suppliers helping Apple to achieve its goal include science-based technology company 3M, materials science companies Arkema and Solvay. Overall, the 71 companies’ commitment to switching to renewable energy for Apple production amounts to 7.8 GW – equivalent to taking 3m cars off the road each year. Once achieved, the use of renewable energy will avoid more than 14.3m t/y of CO2-eq.
Apple will maintain 100% renewable energy use for its operations while focusing on creating new projects and moving its entire supply chain to clean power.
The recent renewable energy ambition for its manufacturing supply chain is a step up from the previous goal of Apple’s Supplier Clean Energy Program. The scheme was launched in 2015 to advance clean energy through its manufacturing supply chain and has since made strong progress towards its initial goal of bringing 4 GW of new clean energy by 2020. As of Apple’s last annual supply energy survey (for the 2019 financial year), more than 2.5 GW of supply-chain clean energy was operational.
Apple also invests directly in renewable energy. New and completed projects in the US bring the company’s renewable capacity for its corporate operations to more than 1 GW. More than 80% of the renewable energy that it sources for its facilities come from Apple-created projects.
The company details its plans for reducing its emissions by 75% compared to 2015 levels by 2030 in its 2020 Environmental Progress Report. Its emissions in 2015 were 38.4m t/y of CO2-eq. In addition, the report explores carbon removal solutions to address the remaining 25% of its emissions.
As well as to renewable energy use, Apple’s approach to carbon neutrality includes leveraging low-carbon product design; energy efficiency; direct emissions abatement – for example through process and material innovation; and carbon removal.
Concerning process and material innovation, the company notes that after investing in aluminium production technology announced by Alcoa Corporation and Rio Tinto in 2018, it brought its first batch of carbon-free aluminium from the joint-venture (JV) in 2019. The JV, Elysis, produces oxygen instead of carbon dioxide during smelting, a typically carbon-intensive process used to produce aluminium, a key material used in Apple products.
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