Apple kicked off its annual iPhone extravaganza with a slickly produced, Octavia Spencer–starring video espousing its environmental bonafides. So it’s perhaps unsurprising that most commentary skewed toward skepticism.
And not without good reason. Apple is the world’s most valuable company. It didn’t get there by telling people to buy less. Plus, greenwashing is a time-honored tradition. Corporate environmental claims are met with skepticism by default.
But there’s reason to believe that Apple might actually mean it.
Since Tim Cook took over the helm in 2011, Apple has become increasingly ambitious (and vocal) about improving its environmental performance. First the company bought enough renewable energy to power its direct operations. In 2016, it started using recycled materials in its products, starting with tin solder on the iPhone 6S logic board. Then in 2020, the company set a goal of zeroing out the carbon emissions of all its products by 2030.
It’s a significant goal, and one that Apple should be held to. While there are still seven years until the deadline, so far the company has made solid progress on it.
Apple’s approach to getting to net zero for its products is notable in that it extends to third-party manufacturers, shipping and even consumer use — deep into Scope 3 territory.
Of all the carbon pollution a company has to eliminate, Scope 3 emissions — those that the company has no direct control over — are by far the hardest. Companies have limited control over how third-party suppliers power their factories and offices or source their materials, making it a challenging part of the equation. But they do have some leverage through the contracts they sign. And in contract negotiations, Apple tends to have a lot of leverage.