renewable investment

Apple approaches 100 per cent renewable energy in manufacturing

Apple has nearly doubled the number of suppliers that have committed to run their production lines using 100 per cent clean energy.

The suppliers in question include two which assemble and make the processor chips for the iPhone.

While Apple already runs its own facilities on renewable energy, the manufacturing of its products makes up by far the largest portion of its carbon footprint, being responsible for 74 per cent of total output.

The company said the move will help it exceed its goal of bringing 4GW of renewable energy into its supply chain by 2020, with over an additional GW projected within that timeframe.

“Every time one of our suppliers joins us in our efforts to address climate change, we move closer to a better future for the next generation,” said Lisa Jackson, Apple VP for Environment, Policy, and Social Initiatives. “We’ve made it a priority to hold our suppliers accountable to the same environmental standards we observe and hope that our collaboration will show others what is possible. While we are proud of our announcement today, we won’t stop driving change within our industry to support the clean energy transition happening globally.”

44 companies are now in the program, including Hon Hai Precision Industry Co (whose Foxconn unit makes iPhones), and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (which supplies the A-series chips that power all of Apple’s mobile devices). Apple had previously disclosed 23 suppliers in the program.

In 2017 the company said it wanted to build all of its future products from recycled materials as it moves towards a ‘closed-loop’ manufacturing process. 

The company defines clean energy as coming from wind, solar, or bio-gas fuel cells, as well as what it calls “low-impact” hydroelectric projects like a site in Oregon that captures energy from water in irrigation canals to power one of its data centres.

Apple did not specify where the new suppliers in the program would get the clean energy. It encourages suppliers to build their own renewable energy projects, such as when iPad assembler Compal last year built rooftop solar installations on its factories in China.

When those options are not available, Apple says it aims to have suppliers sign power-purchase agreements with new renewable energy projects and using purchases of renewable energy credits only when there are no other options.

In an interview, Jackson said the company is also on track to pass its goal of adding 4GW of renewable energy to the grids of its supply chain by 2020 and has a “sight line” to “well over” 5GW. Jackson declined to say whether Apple would drop suppliers such as Foxconn and TSMC - whose capabilities few others in the global electronics supply chain can match - if they fail to meet their commitments to the program.

“It took a while for them to come on board, and so we believe that now that they have, they’re fully committed to doing it,” Jackson said. “And obviously if they fall down on the job, we’ll be right there on their chase. I can’t tell you what will happen, but I hope it never does.”

Meanwhile Amazon has been criticised this week by its own employees for failing to do enough to tackle climate change.

A letter submitted by 4,500 people who work for the company said it had not been transparent enough on its plans to operate using 100 per cent renewable energy.

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