Apple: Greenpeace: Supply chains found to be holding big tech back from achieving sustainability goals

Nov 09, 2022 | Posted by MadalineDunn

Tech giants like Apple have made big pledges when it comes to going green and introducing net-zero and water-positive targets. However, when it comes to their wider supply chains, it turns out they're not so green. According to a recent report from Greenpeace, on average, 77% of technology manufacturing emissions are generated from supply chains. Moreover, twelve of the 14 top suppliers get, on average, 5.4% of their energy from renewable sources or don't disclose. Further to this, the non-profit outlined that these companies "have not provided sufficient incentives or support for their suppliers to decarbonize." Adding that they "have failed to set meaningful renewable energy targets where it really counts — in their supply chains."

Greenpeace outlined that while companies like Microsoft and Google "talk a lot about climate action," in reality, their supply chain carbon footprint has continued to grow. Greenpeace East Asia campaigner Xueying Wu, said: "Consumer electronics brands must provide incentives and support for their suppliers to transition to renewable energy."

Asian chip producers like Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. and SK Hynix Inc. have specifically been called out for their huge power consumption, guzzling up as much power as entire countries for the production of advanced logic and memory chips.

The non-profit highlighted that of the ten consumer electronics companies, Apple is the only one to have reported significant progress on supply chain decarbonization. And, recently Apple did indeed launch a call on its suppliers to decarbonize, this includes semiconductor manufacturer TSMC, the sole producer of Apple's Silicon processors, currently responsible for consuming as much electricity as Sri Lanka's 21-million population and projected to use up 12.5% of the island's annual power consumption by 2025. TSMC, along with its other main manufacturing partners (including Corning Incorporated, Nitto Denko Corporation, SK Hynix, STMicroelectronics, and Yuto), have reportedly committed to power all Apple production with 100 percent renewable energy.

To help facilitate this transition further, Apple has also detailed that it offers a "suite of free e-learning resources and live trainings" through its Clean Energy Program, and said it is "working closely" with its suppliers and local partners to identify effective solutions for renewable energy and carbon removal. Speaking about the giant's focus on decarbonization, Tim Cook, Apple's CEO, said that "fighting climate change" remains one of Apple's most urgent priorities, adding: "Moments like this put action to those words." Further to this, Cook said: "We're looking forward to continued partnership with our suppliers to make Apple's supply chain carbon neutral by 2030. Climate action at Apple doesn't stop at our doors, and in this work, we're determined to be a ripple in the pond that creates a bigger change."

That said, Greenpeace's report did note that Apple has not disclosed detailed energy and emissions data regarding its supply chain.

Microsoft, on the other hand, was highlighted for "backsliding," with the report noting that although in 2020, it pledged to become carbon negative by 2030, by 2021, its supply chain emissions increased by 23%. Amazon's emissions also increased in 2021 by 21%.

The report made a number of recommendations as to how big tech companies can ensure that supply chains are as sustainable as the rest of their green commitments. These recommendations included: 
  • Consumer electronics brands targeting 100% renewable energy across the supply chain by 2030,
  • Suppliers taking responsibility to set up their own ambitious net zero or carbon neutrality targets and 100% renewable energy targets by 2030,
  • Consumer electronics brands actively engaging with suppliers on renewable energy procurement and emission reduction,
  • Choosing high-impact sourcing methods such as PPAs, renewable energy investment, and onsite generation,
  • Increasing transparency in supply chains to ensure full accountability,
  • Corporations, including consumer electronics brands and suppliers, using their position to actively engage with policymakers and government institutions to develop renewable energy-friendly policies.