A new report compares climate initiatives by Apple, Dell, Google, HP, Microsoft, and Nvidia. Apple’s far from perfect, but so far, it’s ahead of the pack, according to today’s report.
It’s the only company among the six tech giants that has set targets for its suppliers to switch to renewable energy. “Other brands need to send similarly clear signals to their suppliers,” Gary Cook, global climate policy director for the nonprofit Stand.earth that published the report, said in a press release.
To be sure, a completely separate report published by a different environmental group last week casts some doubt on Apple’s recent carbon neutral claims. Stand.earth’s new report, however, puts Apple’s broader climate initiatives in perspective by scrutinizing several tech companies at once.
“Other brands need to send similarly clear signals to their suppliers.”
Big Tech produces 4 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, more than aviation. The new Stand.earth report published today includes recommendations for companies to rein in that pollution.
Crucially, companies need to be more strategic about how they purchase renewable energy. Most power grids don’t have enough solar and wind farms online yet to fulfill companies’ goals of becoming carbon neutral. Many of them, including Apple, instead purchase Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) meant to support clean energy projects. But this financial incentive often isn’t enough to actually bring more renewable energy online, particularly if the RECs are unbundled. To change that, Apple, Google, and Microsoft have strategies to get more renewable energy into local grids where they operate.
On top of that, the report says tech companies ought to work together more closely to fight climate change. “There remains a substantial lack of meaningful collaboration and unified action among sector leaders,” it says. They could use their collective might to advocate for policies that promote the adoption of clean energy, for instance.
And of course, supply chain emissions are still a sore spot across the board. The biggest chunk of a company’s carbon footprint is often its suppliers. By the end of the decade, Apple has said it wants to be carbon neutral across its operations and supply chain. The company’s suppliers more than doubled their clean power between 2021 and 2022. This year, some 300 had committed to only using clean energy by 2030 when making Apple products. Their commitments helped Apple make its first announcement of carbon-neutral gadgets last month: “select” combinations of cases and bands for the Apple Watch.
Apple still has to be more transparent about its supply chain emissions
“While Apple may be too quick to claim their products are ‘carbon neutral,’ they are the only ones who are both setting a strong example in how they are moving their own operations off of fossil fuels, and working aggressively to get their suppliers on a path to be 100% renewably powered by 2030,” Cook said.
Despite that progress, Apple still has to be more transparent about its supply chain emissions, according to the separate report published last week by the nonprofit Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE). Apple stopped asking its suppliers to disclose their emissions this year, according to the report.
“Given that Apple’s suppliers do not publicly disclose their clean energy use and greenhouse gas emissions data, how can it be publicly verified that the manufacturing process for the three carbon neutral Apple Watch products uses 100 percent clean electricity?” IPE asks.
The Verge reached out to each of the companies in the report. “We will continue to advocate and share our rigorous, science-based approach to decarbonize our products — in close partnership with our suppliers, and with third-party validation — as a way to drive further progress across industry,” Apple spokesperson Sean Redding said in an email to The Verge.
Nvidia director of corporate communications Liz Archibald said in an email that the company “consistently engages suppliers to evaluate additional initiatives and facilitate further emissions reductions across the supply chain.” Other companies didn’t immediately respond or declined to comment on the record.