Apple Makes New Commitment To Fight Climate Change, But Has A Long Way To Go

04/20/2015 02:32 pm ET | Updated Apr 20, 2015

Apple on Monday released its 2015 Environmental Responsibility Report, underscoring its commitment to lessening the environmental impact of its products and operations. "We don’t want to debate climate change. We want to stop it," the company stated in the report.

But Apple still has a long way to go when it comes to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions, cutting down on paper use and eliminating the amount of toxic substances in its devices.

The report said Apple's overall carbon footprint increased between 2013 and 2014, in part because the company is selling more products. It also noted that Apple is working to make products less carbon-intensive to manufacture and use.

The report went on to say that renewable resources power 100 percent of Apple's data centers, corporate offices and retail stores in the United States, as well as 87 percent of its global facilities. In addition, all of its U.S. data centers have been powered with 100 percent renewable energy since 2012.

Yet the report says that the energy used by Apple facilities in the 2014 fiscal year represented only 1 percent of the company's carbon footprint. By contrast, manufacturing accounted for a whopping 73 percent of the company’s 34.2 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

While the new report doesn't address the volume of paper products used for packaging, it does says that during the 2014 fiscal year, "over 80 percent of the paper and corrugated cardboard used in our iPhone, iPad, iPod, Mac, and Apple TV packaging came from certified sustainably managed forests, controlled wood sources, or recycled materials."

Last week, Apple announced it was purchasing 36,000 acres of forest -- 3,600 in North Carolina and 32,400 in Maine -- to supply paper for its packaging.

The new report also addresses toxic substances in electronics and Apple's efforts to reduce or eliminate these materials for the sake of the environment and human health. "Our goal is to make not just the best products in the world, but the best products for the world," the company wrote.

A 2014 BBC investigation showed allegedly poor working conditions and exhausted employees in undercover footage from a Chinese factory producing Apple products. Apple's previous reports on its suppliers show that "30 percent [of them] don't comply with the company's own safety standards and 18 percent fail to comply with standards on hazardous chemical exposure," according to Wired.

Apple's environmental efforts are led by Lisa Jackson, who joined the company in May 2013 after serving as administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from 2009 to 2013. Her voice can be heard in the "Better Starts Here" video Apple released alongside the report. The ad touts plans to build a 40-megawatt solar farm in China to offset the electricity used by its offices and stores in that country.

"We're directing our innovation into conservation, to get to net zero," Jackson says in the video. “We are learning more and more about new places where we can be better, with renewable energy, hydropower and forest preservation. New ways in which we can leave the world better than we found it."

At last year's annual shareholder meeting Apple CEO Tim Cook told members of a think tank skeptical of manmade climate change that they should ditch Apple stock if they didn't agree with the company's environmental efforts.

Both Google and Microsoft also have made commitments to improving their sustainability and offsetting their operations with renewable energy.

Apple declined to comment for this story.

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