Apple Unveils Its First Carbon Neutral Products


Apple today announced its first-ever carbon neutral products in the all-new Apple Watch Lineup. Innovations in design and clean energy have driven dramatic reductions in product emissions of over 75 percent for each carbon neutral Apple Watch. This milestone marks a major step in the company’s journey toward its ambitious Apple 2030 goal to make every product carbon neutral by the end of the decade, including the entire global supply chain and the lifetime use of every device Apple makes.

Great logo design, too.

Justine Calma, the Verge:

When it comes to climate commitments, boasts about a specific product’s sustainability can distract from the far more important goal of reducing the company’s overall environmental impact. Apple has a goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2030, the key measure for which we should hold it accountable.

The explainer video Apple showed during the presentation was a clever and surprisingly entertaining way of stating its environmental progress. Apple’s goals are laudable and it is making progress — it even bragged about repairability today — but even the best efforts should not escape scrutiny. In that video, for example, various Apple executives (and actors) rattle off clear, specific changes: no plastic in product packaging by the end of next year, and using recycled aluminum in all MacBook, Apple TV, and Apple Watch enclosures. Then there are two claims which need more context:

  1. Someone representing Apple says the company is “shipping more products by ocean […] which reduces transportation emissions by 95%” compared to air travel, but does not clarify what is the total effect this will have on all of Apple’s transportation emissions.

  2. Lisa Jackson says Apple has reduced water usage by 63 billion gallons, but it is not clear how much that represents. That is obviously a lot of water in absolute terms. But how much is it relative to the company’s total water usage?

    Some additional context is provided on page 50 of Apple’s annual environmental report (PDF), where it clarifies this is a total water savings since 2013. It also says water usage in its supply chain represents 99% of its footprint, and that its own facilities in 2022 used 1.5 billion gallons. That may mean its total water footprint in 2022 was 150 billion gallons, but it is not clearly stated, and I am not sure these figures are actually comparable in the way that I did.

Like all corporate responsibility programs, there is an undercurrent of marketing cynicism that is hard to unwind from the honest good happening here. That is a shame because I really do believe Jackson, and Tim Cook, and Apple want to minimize the environmental impact of the company’s products. I think that is something they care about earnestly.

Even so, this ought not be the effort of a single corporation — or even multiple ones — that they opt into or out of. The value of the Earth is not a competitive advantage. Nor, for that matter, should individuals have to make purchasing choices on that basis. If we really consider our environment a priority, these are things we should be investing in on a societal basis and with legal teeth.