Apple and Microsoft Take Big Aim at Carbon Neutrality

Technicians at Finisar oversee VCSEL production at the Sherman, Texas facility. Image: Apple

Yesterday, Microsoft announced that it will be teaming up with Unilever, Starbucks, Mercedes-Benz, Nike, and four other companies to form Transform to Net Zero, an initiative focused on achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. As CNET reported, the team will work with the Environmental Defense Fund to share information on the best practices for decreasing carbon emissions. The initiative follows Microsoft’s January announcement that it seeks to become carbon negative by 2030.

But not to be outdone, Apple also announced yesterday that while it’s already carbon neutral for corporate emissions worldwide, the company plans to bring its entire carbon footprint to net zero 20 years sooner than IPCC targets at 2030. 

What stands out about Apple’s announcement is that it offsets the carbon emissions it can’t avoid through investing in forests and nature-based solutions like mangrove restoration and regenerative agriculture.

Why This Matters: To put it in perspective, as Greentech Media explained, if Apple succeeds, then by the end of this decade every one of its device sold worldwide will have a net-zero climate impact, from the mining of the materials used to make them, to the ships that bring them to global markets, to the electricity that powers their use. Greening the manufacturing process has been a challenge for technology companies, but with giants like Apple and Microsoft leading the way, their influence will be key to bringing along smaller companies and hopefully inspiring lawmakers to invest in green manufacturing as well.

Go Deeper: Read Vogue’s piece “Meet the Woman Behind the Mission” of Apple’s climate targets, a fantastic interview with our #FriendOfThePlanet, Lisa Jackson.

BUT: Carbon neutrality and carbon negativity by 2030 are very ambitious goals and the public must hold companies to their promises. What’s encouraging is that both Microsoft and Apple are committing to making the devices they sell more circular. Activities to extract the metals and minerals needed for phones, tablets, and computers are incredibly harmful to the planet, underscoring the need for closed-loop systems for technology. Take a look at “Dave,” Apple’s latest robot that can disassemble its phones to recoup materials like uncommon earth magnets and tungsten.

Also, these big announcements should come with corporate giants using their influence to push governments around the world to double down on climate commitments as well.  As George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication’s Ed Maibach, tweeted, it’s “a big step in the right direction, if they make good on it. Next, they should lobby governments worldwide to increase their commitments to the Paris Climate Agreement.”


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