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Apple’s Sustainability and Commitment to the Global Village

In this final blog entry on Apple, we’ll look at their commitment to the global village and the progress they are making towards sustainability.

Apple’s has made a strong commitment to sustainability and the global village based upon their investment in critical elements of their environmental management system which includes waste minimization, demand-side management, environmental design, product stewardship and full-cost accounting.   They also provide full transparency of their Total Carbon Footprint, an electronics industry first when they started in 2009. Their Total Carbon footprint takes into account every possible area in which Apple is impacting planet Earth by adding up emissions associated with manufacturing, transportation, product use, recycling of products and emissions from Apple facilities. In 2012, it was reported that 98% of their footprint was directly related to their products while only 2% was related to their facilities primarily due to the use of 100% renewable energy in a variety of their locations which eliminated 30,000 metric tons of Co2 emissions (“Apple and the environment”, 2012).

Apple’s commitment to the environment continues with numerous processes and policies in place to reduce their carbon footprint associated with their products. 61% of their footprint does come from manufacturing so this is an area where Apple has investment much attention.   With the demand for smaller products, by default, fewer materials are required in the production process which has led to an overall reduction in pollutants and waste. Apple has also taken an active approach to redesign many of their products so that they are now lead-free, BFR-free, PVC-free, mercury-free and arsenic-glass free (“Apple and the environment”, 2012). Additionally, Apple has committed to using environmentally conscious materials such as recycled plastics, recycled paper, biopolymers and vegetable-based inks which control impacts on the planet.   Apple offers recycling of all their products at any Apple store from which Apple will ensure they are responsibly recycled. They even go a step further to encourage participation by sending consumers a gift card with the value of any products being recycle or at a minimum will offer a 10% discount on the purchase of a new iPod (“Apple recycling program”, 2012). As discussed in this blog, with the majority of production happening through Apple’s global manufacturing contractors, Apple has created a thorough Supplier Code of Conduct that holds suppliers to the same environmental standards and policies.

Apple, like many companies “that have been certified as being in compliance with ISO 9000 quality standards are new beginning to adopt voluntary environmental quality management standards called ISO 14000 and ISO 14001 which move their environmental policies in the direction of sustainability” (Waddock, 2009, p. 296). Apple reports to have met the ISO 14000 and ISO 14001 standards which tend to “emphasize the operation policies and practices within the company rather than the nature of use of products or services generated” (Waddock, 2009, p. 344). Interestingly, Apple notes that they are have been ISO 14000 compliant for a single manufacturing site in 1996 versus meeting the standard across all operations. Apple also indicates that every product meets the ENERGY STAR guideline for energy efficiency which definitely helps the planet but is a significantly less stringent standard than ISO 14000 or EPEAT standards (see below) (“Apple and the environment”, 2012).

As a stakeholder, my particular experience with the environmental aspects of Apple has been limited. However, there is much information available to dispute the effectiveness of Apple’s environmental programs and policies as well as Apple’s own actions including withdrawal from Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) in July of 2012. EPEAT is a nonprofit organization that helps promote environmentally preferable products and is backed by the federal government—in the form of the Environmental Protection Agency—and industry partners (Morin, 2012). As a founding member of EPEAT it came as complete surprise to many as to why Apple would pull out. Industry experts surmised that Apple’s newest product line, in particular those with the Retina display, have become “more difficult to disassemble, making it harder to remove components—such as the toxic materials in the battery or the glass glued to the aluminum case—for recycling” which would have made compliance with EPEAT difficult (Morin, 2012). After only a few weeks of customer complaints and the loss of potential revenue as federal agencies indicated they could no longer purchase Mac products as they did not meet the EPEAT compliance standard, Apple reversed its stance on EPEAT and reentered the program (“A letter from Bob Mansfield”, 2012).


A letter from Bob Mansfield. (2012, 07 13). Retrieved from

Apple and the environment. (2012, 11 07). Retrieved from http://www.apple.com/environment/.

Apple facilities report – 2012 environmental update. (2012, 11 05). Retrieved from http://images.apple.com/environment/reports/docs/Apple_Facilities_Report_2012.pdf.

Apple recycling program. (2012, 11 06). Retrieved from http://www.apple.com/recycling/.

Kirk, J. (2012). Apple contests Greenpeace’s coal-fired data center claims. MacWorld. Retrieved from http://www.macworld.com/article/1166431/apple_contests_greenpeaces_coalfired_data_center_claims.html

Morin, D. (2012) Apple and EPEAT: what it means. MacWorld. Retrieved from http://www.macworld.com/article/1167636/apple_and_epeat_what_it_means.html

Waddock, S. (2009). Leading Corporate Citizens: Vision, Values, Value Added. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Irwin.


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