By Tripp Mickle and Timothy Puko
(The Wall Street Journal)
Apple, Inc. said Monday that it has achieved a decade-old goal of having its facilities world-wide powered exclusively by renewable energy, an achievement that will shift the company’s sustainability efforts to its supply chain, where about 10% of suppliers have made a similar commitment.
The tech giant said it has improved to be 100% reliant on clean energy from 96% last year in part by contracting renewable energy for the first time in India, Turkey, Brazil and Mexico. The figure covers all of its retail stores, offices, data centers and partner data centers, as well as its new headquarters in Cupertino, California., Apple Park, the spaceship-like structure that features rooftop solar panels and is one of the largest on-site solar installations in the world.
Apple is just one of many global corporations trying to cut energy consumption and shift to renewable power including wind and solar, both to cut costs and slow climate change. More than 100 companies world-wide, including Apple, IKEA, Anheuser-Busch InBev SA and Starbucks Corp., pledged in 2014 to shift to 100% renewable energy. By the end of 2016, 25 had already met the pledge, according to the collaborative, named RE100.
In recent years, large investors have been pushing for companies to disclose more about both their environmental impact and their efforts to mitigate the environmental risks. BlackRock Inc., which is one of Apple’s largest investors, added climate change last year to the list of topics it discusses with the companies in which it invests, for example. It also joined with Vanguard Group in supporting a shareholder proposal that called on Exxon Mobil Corp. to share more information about how climate change could affect its operations.
Many of the RE100 companies are now trying to accelerate efforts to convince their suppliers to join them. While becoming 100% dependent on clean energy at its facilities is an achievement, environmental experts said the bigger challenge will be making the manufacturers of the more than 200 million iPhones and 43 million iPads it sells annually wholly dependent on renewable energy.
“We’re not going to stop until our supply chain is 100% renewable,” said Apple Vice President of Environment Lisa Jackson in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.
Apple, which set that goal two years ago, said nine more of its suppliers have committed to powering all production with 100% clean energy, bringing the total to 23 out of more than 200 suppliers. Many of those suppliers are in Asian countries without the same pressure from consumers and investors that Apple gets in the US
Those countries “do not have the same ingrained sense of corporate responsibility that Apple has,” said Ethan Zindler, head of US research at Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
Ms. Jackson added that Apple also will be challenged to keep its own facilities at the 100% level in the years ahead, especially as it looks to add a new campus in the US and $10 billion in data centers.
Apple has been an outspoken supporter of environmental issues for years. Chief Executive Tim Cook pressed for the US to stay in the Paris climate treaty and sent a memo to employees saying that climate change is real. The company last week stated its opposition to repealing the Clean Power Plan in a letter filed with the Environmental Protection Agency, saying it would increase investment uncertainty.
“We think that it’s a matter of good policy and good sense to move toward cleaner forms of energy,” Ms. Jackson said.