Apple, one of the world’s most recognizable and beloved (and reviled) technology companies, has this week launched a new “first-of-its-kind” clean energy investment fund intended to connect its Chinese suppliers with renewable energy sources.
The China Clean Energy Fund will see Apple partner with 10 initial suppliers to invest $300 million over the next four years, a move that falls under the company’s commitment to address climate change and increase the use of renewable energy within its own supply chain. The fund will investment in and help to develop clean energy projects worth more than 1 gigawatt (GW) of renewable energy in China.
”At Apple, we are proud to join with companies that are stepping up to address the climate challenge,” said Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives. “We’re thrilled so many of our suppliers are participating in the fund and hope this model can be replicated globally to help businesses of all sizes make a significant positive impact on our planet.”
Apple announced in April of this year that its global operations across 43 countries around the world were now being powered by 100% renewable energy — accomplished using multiple Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) and renewable energy certificates (read more about Apple’s PPA strategy here). At the same time, Apple announced that 9 new suppliers had committed to powering their Apple-specific operations with 100% clean energy, taking the total number of companies making such a commitment with Apple up to 23.
“Apple has demonstrated much-needed leadership among IT companies in taking responsibility for the massive carbon footprint of its supply chain in China and other parts of East Asia,” said Gary Cook, Senior Corporate Campaigner for Greenpeace, who spoke to me via email. “Apple was the first company to extend its 100% renewable commitment to include its supply chain, and has made steady progress securing commitments from nearly two dozen of its suppliers to power the Apple portion of its manufacturing lines with renewable energy. Apple’s Clean Energy Fund will hopefully be an important next step, providing a collaborative funding mechanism for Apple’s suppliers to drive renewable energy at much larger scale than would be possible individually.”
Apple’s policies need to be an industry standard, however, and less of an isolated exception worthy of comment. Companies like Apple — and others like Samsung, which last month committed to 100% renewable energy by 2020 in the US, EU, and China — need to lead the way and provide a transparent and strong signal for competitors and peers alike to follow.
“We need to see other major IT brands step up and take responsibility for the air pollution and climate impacts of their supply chains in China, Vietnam, and other parts of Asia, where it continues to drive the demand for coal,” Gary Cook continued. “Customers want companies to take action on climate change, and we are slowly seeing more companies take responsibility, and embrace renewable energy. Just last month, Samsung Electronics, which in response to nearly a year of campaigning by Greenpeace, made an initial commitment to go 100% renewable for its operations in the US, China, and the EU.
By 2020, Apple expects that the company and its suppliers will generate over 4 GW worth of clean energy, a third of the company’s manufacturing electricity footprint. The 10 initial suppliers in the China Clean Energy Fund include:
- Catcher Technology
- Compal Electronics
- Corning Incorporated
- Golden Arrow
- Sunway Communication