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Apple’s ‘carbon-neutral’ products: A misleading environmental achievement?

Is Apple watch series 9 really carbon neutral?

Apple’s recent announcement about its Watch Series 9 being the company’s first carbon-neutral product is noteworthy, but it’s crucial not to become overly enthusiastic about the environmental impact of this individual product. To truly assess Apple’s commitment to sustainability, we must examine the company’s overall environmental footprint and its progress towards becoming carbon neutral by 2030.

The true picture

While Apple’s statement mentions that “select” combinations of cases and bands for its watches will be carbon neutral, it’s important to recognize that this is a partial step. The focus should not solely be on the sustainability of a few product variants but rather on the comprehensive efforts Apple is making to reduce its carbon footprint across its entire product range and supply chain.

Apple’s broader commitment to carbon neutrality by 2030 is the primary benchmark we should use to gauge the company’s environmental responsibility. Achieving this overarching goal is far more impactful and significant than highlighting the sustainability of individual products.

Apple attributes the carbon neutrality of its Watch Series 9 to a combination of factors, including emissions reductions in materials, electricity usage, and transportation during production. This reduction is achieved, in part, by encouraging more of its suppliers to transition to clean energy sources. Any remaining emissions are offset through nature-based projects, such as reforestation initiatives aimed at capturing more carbon dioxide. Additionally, Apple plans to match the expected electricity consumption for charging carbon-neutral Apple Watch models by investing in renewable energy projects.

Another notable shift in Apple’s approach is its decision to cease selling leather accessories like watch bands and phone cases. This move is designed to further minimize greenhouse gas emissions. Leather production contributes to emissions due to the methane produced by cattle, a significant source of greenhouse gases. Instead of leather, Apple is introducing “FineWoven,” a luxurious and durable microtwill material, which consists of nearly 70 percent postconsumer recycled content and boasts significantly lower carbon emissions compared to leather.

A step in the right direction

It’s essential to underscore the importance of reducing emissions from various sources, including materials, electricity, and transportation. However, the sustainability of individual products should not be viewed in isolation. The real measure of progress is whether Apple is reducing its overall carbon emissions across its vast range of products and operations.

While it is encouraging to note that Apple’s gross carbon emissions have declined, as indicated in its latest environmental progress report, the company still emitted the equivalent of 20.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2022. To achieve its climate objectives, Apple must achieve net-zero carbon emissions by the end of the decade.

In summary, while Apple’s announcement about the carbon neutrality of its Watch Series 9 is a positive step, it should not divert attention from the company’s broader sustainability commitments. The true yardstick of Apple’s environmental responsibility lies in its progress toward becoming carbon neutral by 2030 across all its products and operations. Reducing emissions from individual products is significant, but it must be part of a more comprehensive strategy to combat climate change effectively.

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