In July 2019, Ethical Consumer viewed Apple Inc’s 2019 Environmental Responsibility Report covering the financial year 2018.

The report addressed several areas in which the company had an environmental impact, including waste and recycling, water use, toxics, and greenhouse gas emissions associated with the manufacturing, transportation, use, and end of life of its products.

The report also contained disclosure of Apple’s greenhouse gas emissions broken down by source, scope and location.

The company was considered to demonstrate reasonable understanding of its environmental impacts.

The report included only one dated and quantified future environmental target:

“By 2020, Apple and our suppliers will generate or procure at least 4 gigawatts of clean energy in our supply chain.”

Third-party assurance was provided by Bureau Veritas for facilities energy, carbon, waste, paper
and water data, and Apple’s Supplier clean energy program. Fraunhofer Institute provided assurance for product life cycle, carbon footprint, comprehensive fiber footprint and packaging plastic footprint data. Although the information in the report covered Apple's main environmental impacts and the report was externally verified, the lack of two future dated, quantified targets meant that Apple received Ethical Consumer's worst rating in this category.

It should be noted that the report did show some commendable achievements including transitioning 100% of electricity supply to the company's facilities to renewables and a 35% reduction in overall carbon footprint between 2015 and 2018.

Reference:

Apple Envirnmental Responsibility Report 2019 (2019)

In January 2017 Ethical Consumer viewed the updated Greenpeace Report ‘Clicking Clean: who is winning the race to build a greener internet?’ dated January 2017.

The Clicking Clean reports benchmarks the IT sector, ranking IT companies on their use of renewable and dirty energy within their data centres. According to the 2017 report the IT sector was estimated to consume about 7% of the world’s global electricity and was predicted to increase threefold in global internet traffic by 2020, resulting in the internet's energy footprint rising further, fueled both by our individual consumption of data and by the spread of the digital age to more of the world's population.
Apple received an ‘A’ grade in the 2017 Clicking Clean Report. Also receiving an 'A' was Apple's messaging service iMessage.

Greenpeace stated "Apple has remained among the most aggressive in the sector in its efforts to power its online platform with renewable energy. Apple continues to play an important role in opening access to renewable energy new markets where it has located its data centers, such as the company’s most recent data center in Arizona. Apple has also played a catalytic role within its IT supply chain, pushing other IT data center and cloud operators who help deliver pieces of Apple’s corner of the internet to follow their lead in powering their operations with renewable energy, though with slower success than its own data centers thus far."

Transparency (A): The report stated "Apple provides the clearest and most detailed reporting of the major data center operators on the energy performance of its own data centers, including detailed consumption and details on how its renewable contracts or investments have changed the grid mix for each data centers. While Apple’s reporting on its collective colocation footprint has improved this year, Apple should take the next step forward by making public those companies who are working to help Apple achieve its goal to have a 100% renewably powered corner of the internet."
Renewable Energy Commitment & Siting Policy (A): The report stated "Since adopting its 100% renewable commitment in 2012, Apple has maintained a strong siting policy, requiring any new data center location to have the ability to secure 100% renewable energy. Also to its credit, Apple has also maintained strong principles guiding its pursuit of its renewable electricity supply, with the requirement that any new load Apple is creating is also met with the equivalent new renewable supply, regardless of underlying grid mix."
Energy Efficiency & GHG Mitigation (A): The report stated "In addition to its efforts to increase its supply of renewable energy, Apple reports its efforts to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas footprint associated with its data centers through a variety of measures, and like a number of other companies, has deployed data center designs in northern latitudes to take advantage of open air cooling opportunities."
RE Procurement (A): The report stated "Apple continues to match the expansion of its own data centers with an equivalent local supply of renewable energy to match this growth. Although details on the renewable energy supply for its most recent data centers in Denmark and Ireland have not yet been announced, Apple recently confirmed a significant new solar project that will provide renewable energy to its new data center “Control Center” in Mesa, Arizona, with the local utility agreeing to a long-term PPA for the output of the 50MW project owned by Apple. Apple has also been busy keeping up with its rapidly growing data center in North Carolina, bringing its third solar project online, and become the second customer to publicly announce a deal under Duke Energy’s Green Rider renewable tariff program.
Advocacy (B): The report stated "Apple has continued to evolve as an even stronger corporate advocate for climate and clean energy policies. Apple filed a brief in support of the US EPA’s Clean Power Plan. Apple has also been very active at the state level in the U.S. In North Carolina, where it operates its largest data center, Apple joined Facebook and Google to defend existing renewable policies from attack. While Apple had some success in getting its colocation suppliers to provide a renewable hosting service, its recent decision to significantly expand its reliance on Dupont Fabros Technology infrastructure in both Chicago and
Virginia seem to be a step in the wrong direction."

Reference:

Greenpeace Click Clean Report update (January 2017)

In 2015 Ethical Consumer viewed the Climate Count's website http://www.climatecounts.org. The organisation is a nonprofit organisation launched in collaboration with Clean Air-Cool Planet and annually rates companies on the basis of their voluntary action to reverse climate change. Climate Counts use a 0-to-100 point scale and 22 criteria to determine if companies had:
* MEASURED their climate "footprint"
* REDUCED their impact on global warming
* SUPPORTED (or suggest intent to block) progressive climate legislation
* Publicly DISCLOSED their climate actions clearly and comprehensively

According to the report Apple was "soaring" and had shown expectional leadership but there was still room for improvement.

Apple scorecard stated:
Review: 22/22 points. Apple had completed a comprehensive inventory of the impact it had on global warming and that the company expected to continue its review in the future.
Reduce: 31/56 points. Apple had established clear goals to reduce the company's greenhouse gas emissions and had initiated projects that have resulted in reductions.
Policy Stance: 2/10 points. Apple had distinguished itself by strongly advocating for comprehensive public policy that addresses climate change and would lead to market-wide reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and the growth of renewable energy capacity. Apple resigned from the US Chamber of Commerce over the trade group's opposition to comprehensive climate and energy legislation.
Report: 7/12 points. Apple had made some public information available on its efforts to address global warming.

Due to the fact Apple was grade A it was considered to have a positive policy towards climate change therefore it did not lose any marks under Ethical Consumer's rating system.

Reference:

Climate counts 2015 (23 November 2015)

In March 2014, The Economic Policy Institute, a US-based nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank, analysed Apple’s 2014 supplier responsibility report which was released in February 2014 and which reports on conditions in its supply chain during 2013.

Their focus was on the labor rights aspects of the report, and not the environmental aspects. They found working conditions that still routinely and systematically fail to meet Apple’s own standards.

“While Apple has made progress in some areas, the claims made by Apple in its report are often misleadingly rosy." says lead researcher Scott Nova.
He added that “Apple also appears to be walking away from the fundamental reforms promised as part of the Fair Labour Association process. It is discouraging, if not surprising, that promises made under the pressure of intense media scrutiny were quietly jettisoned when that scrutiny abated. Sadly, this means labour rights abuses in Apple’s supply chain are ongoing and commonplace.”

The report outlines several major issues with Apples reporting. These include:
The effects of Apple’s reforms are often dubious and are overstated by the company. For example, Apple places great emphasis on its data indicating that fewer workers in its supply chain are working more than 60 hours per week, yet ignores altogether the fact that workweeks at its Chinese factories still consistently break Chinese law (which Apple has repeatedly pledged to uphold). The average work week Apple reports still exceeds, by a substantial margin, the 49-hour limit imposed by Chinese law. In another example, Apple reports 99 percent compliance by its suppliers when it comes to “freedom of association” when such freedom is a legal and practical impossibility in China.
Apple’s own data show that labour rights violations remain common and that there has been no overall progress when it comes to worker health and safety. Apple’s own audits show that 27 percent of supplier practices are not in compliance with juvenile worker protections; 28 percent are not in compliance with occupational injury protections; and 30 percent are not in compliance with ergonomic standards. In the health and safety area, overall non-compliance is 23 percent, which is essentially the same level as in 2009, when it was 24 percent.
Apple has apparently walked away from key reforms promised as part of the FLA process. In the wake of media criticism of the treatment of workers in its supply chain, especially at its largest supplier, Foxconn, Apple publicly recommitted itself more than two years ago to advancing fundamental reforms, this time through its new membership in the FLA. Since then, however, the company (in its latest report and previously) and the FLA have largely gone silent regarding certain crucial commitments they made, including promises to boost wages to offset any reductions in hours worked and to pay back wages to workers who had engaged in uncompensated overtime.
Apple’s self-regulatory approach raises independence and accuracy concerns; independent reports continue to paint a far more troubling picture of Apple’s supply chain. Apple’s audits are carried out by Apple itself, and the information contained in them is reported selectively, by Apple. Apple’s annual supplier responsibility reports—which draw on these audit reports to broadly characterize conditions in the supply chain—should thus be treated with ample caution, especially given the failed history of industry-controlled factory auditing programs as well as findings from independent investigators that are far worse than those portrayed by Apple. For instance, a 2013 investigation by China Labor Watch of Apple’s second largest supplier found 17 basic areas where working conditions failed to meet Apple’s code of conduct.
There has been progress in some areas. As examples, working hours, though still well in excess of legal limits, have apparently been reduced significantly. Apple now discloses the names and locations of its supplier factories—information no other major electronics brand provides—and Apple released, in this year’s supplier responsibility report, unusually detailed “Supplier Responsibility Standards,” which lay out Apple’s official expectations concerning suppliers’ labor practices. While compliance is very much in question, access to the detailed requirements is of use to the public and to workers’ rights advocates.

Reference:

Assessing the Reforms Portrayed by Apple’s Supplier Responsibility Report (25 March 2014)

A company in Suqian, China, called Catcher, making iPhone and iPad parts was found to have a number of serious health and safety, environmental, and human rights violations, as was revealed in a new investigative report. The investigation was conducted in August 2014 and released on 4th September 2014 by the non-profit organizations China Labor Watch (CLW) and Green America.
CLW investigated the Catcher Sujian factory in April 2013 and found many of the same violations. At that time, CLW reported its findings to Apple privately, after which Apple committed to reforming some of the problems. The new report showed that in the 16 months, Apple had not made progress with this supplier to improve conditions for its workers. In spite of Apple’s supplier code of conduct and commitments to prevent these violations, more than a year later, they persist. These findings were in violation of Chinese law and Apple’s Supplier Code of Conduct.
The factory, which employed 20,000, was not one of Apple’s 18 Final Assembly Plants in China, and therefore was not one of the facilities where Apple had recently committed to a policy to ban the use of benzene and n-hexane in manufacturing.
Violations found at Catcher Suqian included the following:
•Significant amounts of aluminum-magnesium alloy shreddings on the floor and dust particles in the air (this dust is both flammable and combustible). Lack of proper ventilation poses a health and fire safety risk
•Inadequate personal protective equipment (PPE) for handling toxic materials, such as metal cutting fluids. Skin is exposed directly to these toxins and there are no ventilator masks
•Locked safety exits. There was no means of rapid egress if there is a fire or explosion.
•Workers had not participated in fire drills in the past year
•A lack of safety training for workers
• Dumping of industrial fluids and waste into groundwater and nearby rivers
•Many student workers (16-18 years old) are employed in the same positions as adults, 10+ hour days
•Excessive hours for all workers, including student interns
•Forced overtime. Workers were not allowed to turn down requests they work overtime. An estimated 6 hours of unpaid overtime per worker per month (Roughly $290,000 in owed wages for all employees)
•Hiring discrimination based on age and presence of tattoos
•A grievance process that retaliates against workers for raising valid workplace issues
Green America and CLW called on Apple to do what was necessary to ensure that workers making Apple products were treated according to law and Apple’s own social responsibility commitments.
As a result, Apple lost half a mark under Pollution and Toxics, and a whole mark under Workers Rights.

Reference:

iPhone and iPad Supplier Exploits and Endangers Safety of 20,000 Workers (4 September 2014)

In August 2018, Ethical Consumer contacted Apple asking for details of its use of hazardous substances, specifically PVC and BFR. No response was received. However, a number of statements regarding this issue were found in Apple's 2018 environmental responsibility progress report.

This included commitments to phasing out some chemicals and the elimination of some already.

It stated that it had eliminated Brominated Flame Retardants (BFRs) and Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), although "recently acquired Beddit products and some older Apple product designs may not be fully BFR.free and PVC.free."

It further stated "Every Apple product is free of PVC and phthalates with the exception of power cords in India and South Korea, where we continue to seek government approval for our PVC and phthalates replacement."

It stated that it had phased out the use of lead, mercury, beryllium and arsenic with the following qualifying statements:

"Arsenic is present in minute quantities in some semiconductor devices" and "Apple products comply with the European Union Directive 2011/65/EU and its amendments, including exemptions for the use of lead. Apple is working to phase out the use of these exempted substances where technically possible."

The company therefore received a best Ethical Consumer rating for its toxic policy.

Reference:

Environmental progress report 2018 (14 August 2018)

In September 2016, Friends of the Earth Netherlands rated companies on their policies towards the use of responsibly sourced tin from Indonesia. Much of the world's tin comes from the region, and the mining is associated with severe environmental damage and workers' rights abuses.

Apple was listed as a leader, scoring 7 out of 11. This was considered positive by Ethical Consumer.

Reference:

20 September 2016

In August 2018 Ethical Consumer viewed Apple Inc's 2017 SEC Filing SD form which dealt with the issue of conflict minerals. Conflict minerals are minerals mined in conditions of armed conflict and human rights abuses, notably in the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The minerals in question are Tantalum, Tin, Tungsten and Gold (3TG for short) and are key components of electronic devices, from mobile phones to televisions.

Ethical Consumer expected any company manufacturing electronics to have a policy on the sourcing of conflict minerals.

Apple stated: "Apple will continue to responsibly source conflict minerals throughout its supply chain and press for continuous improvements in industry-wide due diligence approaches and human rights–focused practices to make a positive impact on the lives of people living in the DRC and adjoining countries." Ethical Consumer took this to be a statement of intent to stay sourcing from the DRC.

The company was a member of several initiatives such as Conflict Free Sourcing Initiative. Apple supported the efforts of other Third Party Audit programs, such as those carried out by the London Bullion Market Association (the “LBMA”), the Responsible Jewellery Council and ITRI through its Tin Supply Chain Initiative (“iTSCi”), to be better aligned with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas (“OECD Guidance”)."

Apple's suppliers were required to to adopt a robust conflict minerals policy as stapilated in Apple's Supplier Code of Conduct. The company used OECD Guidance as a way to track, assess and respond to risks within its supply chain and required suppliers to source minerals from smelters which had been verified as compliant.
Apple's SD form had a full list of smelters and refiners (SORs). It had also achieved 100% of its smelters in its supply chain as being verified compliant.

Overall Apple received Ethical Consumer's best rating for its conflict minerals report.

Reference:

SEC filing form SD 2017 (14 August 2018)

In September 2016, Friends of the Earth Netherlands rated companies on their policies towards the use of responsibly sourced tin from Indonesia. Much of the world's tin comes from the region, and the mining is associated with severe environmental damage and workers' rights abuses.

Apple was listed as a leader, scoring 7 out of 11. This was considered positive by Ethical Consumer.

Reference:

20 September 2016