Is Apple’s Next Step Declaring an Ecological Emergency?

2nd September 2020

Alex Massie, Climate and Ecological Emergency Specialist at the leading environmental consultancy Eunomia has applauded technology giant Apple’s plan to be carbon neutral across its business and manufacturing supply chain by 2030 but is calling on Apple – a famously disruptive brand – to go further still. Alex, who is currently supporting the Environment Agency with its carbon balancing plan, and working with local authorities who have declared climate emergency plans, said:

The hunt for space to reforest

“Apple’s public announcement about its carbon neutral goal is a sign that 2030 net zero is now becoming a major corporate consideration and I’m pleased to see such a leading technology brand make this move. In its ‘A planet-sized plan’ Apple states that 25% of emissions will need to be offset, and for that, they have developed an investment fund in partnership with Conservation International. It’s a fund designed to help protect and restore the world’s forests, wetlands, and grasslands to remove excess carbon from our atmospheres – starting with Colombian Mangroves and Kenyan Savannas. Is this the beginning of an exponential increase in demand for space to reforest as other brands follow Apple’s lead? Is Apple also looking for offsetting projects in the markets where most of its products are bought? What will happen to a nation’s own decarbonisation target if all the reforestation projects are used by overseas corporates?

Offsetting options

“We recently wrote about how carbon offsetting fits into a decarbonisation strategy, highlighting that new guidance from the Paris Agreement, superseding the Kyoto Agreement, means each country now reports on their emissions, or nationally determined contributions (NDCs). Buying offsets from overseas might not be an option as nations seek to maintain the benefit of national reductions to count against their Paris target. Businesses, like Apple, who rely on overseas offsets might need to start looking at domestic options sooner rather than later.

Leading the market

“Where I’m most interested to see Apple’s approach, is how they regulate emissions from the part of their supply chain responsible for the extraction of minerals and raw materials. The Material Impact Profile research they’ve carried out to identify which materials have the most impact and therefore need to be prioritised is a helpful resource for other brands in the sector and it’s clear that due diligence for certain supply chains is a challenge. The critical mineral Coltan is common in miniature electronic devices such as the iPhone and has been identified as one of the priority materials, and it’s often extracted from mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo – a place where there is currently no regulation and many areas are militia run. It’s also unlikely that there is much understanding of what the effects of mining are on the area’s ecology. I wonder if there is an opportunity for Apple to lead a consortium of brands in the tech sector to tackle such an enormous challenge together.

“To step up to the climatic challenges that lie ahead, we need ambitious, disruptive brands to lead the way in tackling the ecological emergency – I’ve explained before why so many environmental strategies fall short. It would be great to see Apple take another innovative step and make a declaration, and a plan for addressing, an ecological emergency.”

Image courtesy of Niels Epting via flikr (CC BY-ND 2.0)