The Status Quo of Apple’s CSR

Apple Inc. is the world’s second largest information technology company in the world (by revenue), and largest as a publicly traded corporation internationally [1]. According to the Financial Post last November, Apple became the first US company to be valued at $700 billion [1]Statista reports the company maintains 437 retail location in fifteen countries, and employing almost 73,000 permanent staff [2]. As well as it is doing financially, one may wonder where its corporate social responsibility (CSR) agenda lies in relation to its immense economic growth.

It turns out, Apple has quite a comprehensive environmental campaign and CSR policy incorporated into its business model. The company prides itself on continuous improvement and transparency; in this respect, its projects and practices are publicly accessible on the net.

Apple Inc. has two separate pages affirming CSR initiatives: Environment and Supplier Responsibility. The Environment page discloses its annual carbon footprint (in metric tons) according to its facilities, product use, transportation, recycling, and production. Falling under its combatting climate change campaign, it also highlights energy efficiency endeavors, namely its strive towards 100% renewable energy facilities, and its progress thus far switching to solar, wind, and geothermal power (more info). Its Clean Water Program and LEED Platinum certifications are also documented here. Other links provided within the Environment page document toxins reduction and highlight product design improvements as part of Apple’s doing more with less waste reduction campaign. Impressive was Apple’s local recycling campaign which encourages the return of old devices to stores through gift card rewards. Investing $850 million into a solar farm project in California was not too shabby either [3].

Apple products are rated based on four categories: climate change, restricted substances, energy, and material efficiency; all market products (ex: iPhone 6 Plus) are subject to a Life Cycle Assessment and archived accordingly. The process adheres to the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool format (EPEAT) [4].

The Supplier Responsibility page addresses supplier accountability, namely environmental effects, worker empowerment, labor and human rights, and health and safety. All such factors are audited. They also claim to map their supply chain for use of harmful chemicals, down to individual smelters; non-compliance with standards to any of the above require corrective action. Allegedly, the monitoring and remediation measures following annual audits take place in 30-60-90 day intervals [5].

Overall, Apple’s CSR initiatives are quite impressive. It seems that in terms of current standards of CSR they are doing everything they need to do. I am just not convinced the supplier responsibility side is any more than a marketing strategy. This is a concern, considering they outsource a lot to China where human rights abuses, pollution and safety violations are notorious. Apple only provides generic figures of number of suppliers audited. Do we really have legitimate information about where and how raw materials are sourced and the actual environmental pollution coming from its production facilities? Are internal audits at outsourced locations sufficient enough to comply with the standards Apple claims to adhere to?

References

[1] “Apple Inc market cap tops US$700B, double what it was when Tim Cook took over as CEO”. Financial Post. November 25, 2014. Retrieved November 25,2014.

[2] “Number of Apple stores worldwide 2005-2014”. Statista. RetrievedDecember 6, 2014.

[3] Reuters, Apple investing $850 million in California solar farm, retrieved from http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/02/10/us-apple-cook-idUSKBN0LE2RN20150210

[4] Apple Inc. – Environmental Responsibility. Retrieved from https://www.apple.com/ca/environment/climate-change/

[5] Apple Inc. – Supplier Responsibility. Retrieved from https://www.apple.com/ca/supplier-responsibility/pdf/Apple_Progress_Report_2015.pdf

[6] “Corporate Social Responsibility in the Consumer Electronics Industry: A Case Study of Apple Inc.” [Article] Retrieved from http://lwp.georgetown.edu/wp-content/uploads/Connor-Myers.pdf