Apple has released its 2017 Environmental Responsibility Report, outlining details throughout fiscal year 2016 on the company’s efforts in making all of its operations more eco-friendly. In addition to Apple’s continued push toward completely renewable energy sources, this year’s report highlights a new ambitious area of environmental focus for the company — to end reliance on the mining of finite resources altogether in favour of using only renewable resources and recycled materials.
The report outlines Apple’s goal for a “closed-loop supply chain” that would both eliminate the need to mine for new raw materials as well as getting rid of waste by recycling devices instead of having them end up in landfills. Apple has long had programs in place to ensure that finite raw materials are responsibility sourced, but this year the company has gone one step further, stating that “We’re also challenging ourselves to one day end our reliance on mining altogether.” While Apple acknowledges that this is an ambitious goal that “will require many years of collaboration” between Apple, suppliers, and recyclers, the company is continuing to put a stronger emphasis on its Apple Renew program along with innovative new recycling techniques to more effectively reclaim materials so they can be used in new products. The report goes into considerably more detail about how Apple has created Material Risk Profiles to identify global, social, environmental, and supply risk factors and thereby determine which materials to prioritize, and describing some of Apple’s recycling initiatives and successes within its own supply chain and landfill waste reduction.
In the area of renewable resources, Apple’s report goes into the company’s efforts in water conservation, noting that the company is working on reducing irrigation water use in favour of recycled water, and expects that the new Apple Park campus will reduce the company’s freshwater usage by more than 20 million gallons per year, and that through the company’s Clean Water Program, Apple helped its suppliers conserve more than 3 billion gallons of water in 2016. Apple also continues to work on ways to improve packaging to use paper more efficiently, and using recycled paper as much as possible. The report notes that in 2016 Apple used 131,000 metric tons of finer, of which 62 percent was recycled and 38 percent came from responsibility managed sources. Efforts are also underway to redesign packaging to use fewer plastics in favour of renewable, responsibly sourced fibre, citing the accessory tray in the iPhone 7 packaging as an example — made from a “mix of sustainably harvested bamboo fiber and bagasse, a waste by-product of sugarcane manufacturing.” Apple also adds that its work in creating and protecting sustainable forests now more than offsets its product packaging needs; for the first time yearly production from its forest conservation products now exceeds the amount of virgin fiber being used for packaging. In partnership with The Conservation Fund, Apple reports that it has protected over 36,000 acres of sustainable forest in the Eastern United States, and it continued to work with the World Wildlife Fund to transition up to one million acres of forest in China into responsible management by 2020.
Apple also continues to improve on its use of renewable energy in its facilities, reporting that in 2016, it increased renewal electricity use in its global facilities to 96 percent — up three percent from last year — reducing the company’s carbon emissions by nearly 585,000 metric tons. Apple is now using 100 percent renewable energy in 24 countries — adding one more to last year’s numbers — and continues to use 100 percent renewable energy in all of its data centers that power services such as iCloud, iMessage, and Siri. The company also continues to assist its suppliers in a push toward renewable energy, reporting that it conducted 34 energy audits in its supplier facilities in 2016, identifying more than $55 million in savings opportunities and avoiding more than 150,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents.