Apple stalled their much-awaited phone release to showcase their sustainability progress video featuring actress Octavia Spencer and CEO Tim Cook himself, a couple of days ago which garnered the interest of many, like me.
Although the video is quite impressive and highlights the commendable efforts made by the company’s sustainability team, it doesn’t quite show the full picture. The video should be seen for what it actually is: a PR effort and not a reference for the company’s ESG/Sustainability data. They cherry-picked their best green credentials and presented those. Therefore, there are certain points to keep in mind when absorbing data from videos vs. reports.
Firstly, the timeframe of the data can be different. In a bid to show ‘great progress’ and ‘big impact’, companies will almost always quote shockingly large numbers of progress but won’t tell you the reference point. For instance, in the Apple video, they say that the company has reduced water use by 63 billion gallons (about 238480830000 L) – but doesn’t indicate from when.
However, their 2023 Environmental Progress report reveals that this is the amount of water savings done by suppliers since the inception of Apple’s Clean Water Program in 2013. In actuality, the company’s own water usage has increased by 9% since last year, also reported in their 2023 Environmental Progress Report.
Furthermore, some data and statistics that the company stated in the progress video are ‘general facts’ and must not be confused with the company’s actual figures. For example, the comment about transportation emissions reducing by 95% if ship freight is used instead of air freight is an estimated number based on the company’s own methodology and does not denote their actual emission reductions. In fact, their scope 2 and corporate scope 3 emissions have increased since last year.
Next, Apple claimed that their new iWatch is completely carbon neutral with 75% product emissions reduction and the rest of it offset through carbon credits. This claim seems a bit bold especially when Apple’s so-called ‘credible credits’ by Verra came under scrutiny.
The UK advertising watchdog only recently warned against the improper use of ‘carbon neutrality’ terminology, threatening stricter enforcement not limited to banning adverts making the claim – so it was concerning to see the company lingering on the topic of ‘carbon neutrality’ for as long as they did.
Apple’s reports do back up that they are indeed making progress, particularly with supplier sustainability goals – but this video did not show the full picture of the enormity of the work still to be done.
Written by Integrum ESG Analyst Neha Kandwal.