Apple moves towards greener supply chain with zero-waste and clean energy milestones

Apple has made progress in its ongoing effort towards a greener supply chain, with big achievements over the past year in key areas such as waste and low-carbon energy procurement.

Apple and its suppliers are almost three-quarters of the way along a path to purchasing more than 4GW clean energy worldwide by 2020

Apple and its suppliers are almost three-quarters of the way along a path to purchasing more than 4GW clean energy worldwide by 2020

The tech giant outlined efforts on supply chain pledges in its latest annual supplier responsibility report, released yesterday (7 March).

Some of the biggest steps were made in the area of resource efficiency. All of Apple’s final assembly lines in China attained zero-waste-to-landfill certifications in 2017, just two years after the launch of its zero-waste programme. Worldwide, 100% of iPhone final assembly facilities have achieved zero-waste-to-landfill certification.

Apple has developed a new PET recycling process that uses the waste film liner material - used to protect iPhones - to manufacture trays that transport the product down the assembly line. Reusing the liners eliminates 200 metric tonnes of solid waste each year, the report claims. 

There was progress in Apple’s energy efficiency programme which trains suppliers to find opportunities that slash their energy usage and carbon emissions.

In 2017, around 77% of supplies participated in the programme, working on measures such as lighting upgrades and motion sensors, processed heating and cooling, and compressed air. The report noted that these efforts saw supply chain emissions fall by 320,00 metric tonnes last year.

In its bid to make a low-carbon transition, Apple and its suppliers are almost three-quarters of the way along a path to purchasing more than 4GW clean energy worldwide by 2020. Already, 16 suppliers have made 100% clean energy commitments for Apple production.  

Greening the core 

The company has been focusing on supply chain efficiency in recent times. Apple has introduced a "first-of-its-kind" risk assessment tool covering supply chain risks related to material sourcing, environmental impact and health and safety. 

Last year, Apple launched a second dedicated funding stream to finance clean energy and environmental projects, through a $1bn green bond, with a specific focus given to the company’s supply chain. More than $400m was allocated to 16 projects ranging from renewable energy to recycling as part of the first bond – including Liam the robotic recycling arm.

Apple has stepped up the use of secondary materials in their products. The tech giant has pledged to “go deeper” developing new closed-loop products by using only renewable resources or recycled materials that negate the need to mine materials, starting with tin and aluminium.

Earlier this year, a report on corporate green procurement performances from CDP and McKinsey recognised Apple for its work to reduce emissions and lower environmental risks in the supply chain.

With 93% of Apple’s global facilities running on renewable energy, the company will soon begin to sell electricity generated from solar panels and farms, hydrogen fuel cells and biogas facilities located across the company’s biggest facilities including the Cupertino headquarters

George Ogleby


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