In May 2020, Ethical Consumer viewed Apple Inc’s 2019 Environmental Responsibility Report, the most recent available, covering the financial year 2018.

A strong policy would include two future, quantified environmental targets, demonstration by the company that it had a reasonable understanding of its main environmental impacts, be dated within two years and have its environmental data independently verified.

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.

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.

However, 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 for Environmental Reporting and the company lost a whole mark in this category.


Apple Envirnmental Responsibility Report 2019 (2019)

In May 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed the Greenpeace Report ‘Clicking Clean Virginia - The Dirty Energy Powering Data Center Alley’ dated February 2019.

The Clicking Clean reports benchmark global internet platforms and major data centre operators on their use of renewable and dirty energy within their data centres. According to the 2019 report 70 percent of the world’s internet traffic is claimed to pass through just one of Virginia’s counties, and dramatic expansion increases demand in coal and natural gas. Less than 5 percent of power generation in Virginia comes from renewable sources.

The report stated, “Since 2012, more than 20 major tech companies have committed to power their global operations with renewable energy.”

“Despite 100% renewable commitments that have had significant impact in driving renewables in other markets, Virginia is an important reminder that utilities will only begin to scale up renewable generation when large customers seriously pursue their commitments”.

"In addition to a number of large data centers Apple owns and operates elsewhere in the U.S. and abroad, Apple digital offerings are also supported by colocation leases and cloud computing platforms, with significant data center operations in Virginia . Apple was one of the first tech companies to commit to power its data centers with renewable energy in May 2012 . To secure a renewable supply of electricity for its Virginia operations (which include a 20-megawatt lease with a Digital Realty data center in Ashburn and retail stores in the region), Apple contracted for a 165-megawatt solar farm in Fredericksburg, Virginia, in partnership with Akamai, Etsy and Swiss RE. We have attributed 29 megawatt of delivered solar capacity for Apple’s portion of this virtual PPA . While Apple currently matches its colocation data center demand with an equivalent renewable energy supply, Apple has not taken responsibility for or reported the size of its use of AWS’s cloud platform based in Virginia, which appears to be significant based on the wide range of Apple services taken offline when AWS cloud services was disrupted in 2017. Despite its significant operations, Apple has yet to take an active role in renewable advocacy in Virginia, in contrast to its consistent efforts in neighboring North Carolina ."

As the company had been criticised for failing to report the size of its use of AWS, which was one of the worst performing companies in the report, Apple lost half a mark under Climate Change.


Clicking Clean Virginia 2019 (February 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 and was therefore not marked down under Climate Change. This story is for information only. 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."


Greenpeace USA Clicking Clean Report update (January 2017)

In May 2020, Ethical Consumer viewed Apple’s 2019 Environmental Responsibility Report, the latest available, for the company's policy on the use of potentially hazardous chemicals such as PVC, BFR and phthalates.

A toxics policy was deemed necessary for all electronics companies, as these substances were widely used by electronics companies and had a significant negative environmental impact when released after disposal.
The document addressed the use of PVC, BFR and phthalates and included a table listing the dates at which these substances and others had been phased out of use in specific parts of products and/or packaging. However, the company did not appear to have stated future targets for the complete elimination of these substances.

It stated that it had eliminated Brominated Flame Retardants (BFRs) and Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), although while the "phaseout covers the vast majority of products and components, products by Beddit, which Apple recently acquired, and some older Apple product designs may not be fully BFR-free and PVC-free."
It further stated "Apple products are free of PVC and phthalates with the exception of power cords in India, Thailand, and South Korea, where we continue to seek government approval for our PVC and phthalates replacement."
As the company had already achieved the elimination of PVC, BFR and phthalates from its products except in some exceptional cases, it received Ethical Consumer’s best rating for its pollution and toxics policy.


Apple Envirnmental Responsibility Report 2019 (2019)

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.


20 September 2016

In May 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed Apple Inc's 2020 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.

1. The report stated that "Apple is committed to meeting and exceeding legal requirements and internationally accepted due diligence standards, with the ultimate goal of improving conditions on the ground in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (“DRC”) and adjoining countries." It also stated “as the African Great Lakes region faces ongoing challenges to achieve lasting change, Apple remains committed to continue responsibly sourcing 3TG from the region”.

2. Apple was a member of the Responsible Minerals Initiative.

3. Apple's Supplier Code of Conduct, dated 2019, stated: “Suppliers shall exercise due diligence on relevant materials in their supply chains. Suppliers shall develop particular due diligence policies and management systems in order to identify applicable risks and take appropriate steps to mitigate them”.

4. The SEC filing listed measures the company has taken to identify, assess, mitigate and respond to risks within its supply chain by reporting annual progress in in relation to the following steps outlined by the OECD Due Diligence Guidance; and detailed ways in which the company had ‘gone beyond’ each of the requirements.

*1 Establish Strong Management Systems
*2 Identify & Assess Risk
*3 Design/Implement Response Strategy
*4 Carry Out Independent 3rd Party Audits
*5 Report Publicly on Due Diligence

5. The report stated that ”Since 2015, Apple has continued to reach a 100 percent rate of participation by identified smelters and refiners in its supply chain in Third Party Audit programs.", and also noted that “In 2019, Apple directed its suppliers to remove from its supply chain 18 smelters and refiners that were not willing to participate in, or complete, a Third Party Audit or did not otherwise meet Apple’s requirements on the responsible sourcing of minerals." This was interpreted as a commitment to only use audited and verified suppliers.

6. The Report included a list of smelters or refiners (SORs) which included their name and location, however, it did not state their compliance status. Ethical Consumer required companies to list all smelters or refiners and report their RMAP status to fulfill this criterion.

Overall, Apple received Ethical Consumer’s best rating for its conflict minerals policy, having fulfilled 5 out of the 6 criteria defined in the rating.


Apple 2020 Form SD (18 May 2020)