At each Apple product launch, the company displays a green slide to talk about energy consumption and recycling. I’ve noticed that a lot of people seem to be ignoring that slide, but it can be one of the most important things you see in every product introduction.
Let me explain why.
Sustainability from resource mobilization to recycling has become a business essential for virtually every venture at every step. Like many companies, Apple is developing sustainable business practices throughout its operations.
Zooming out, what strategic lessons can business leaders learn from this approach?
Work with your partners
Apple’s environmental reports show that it understands that in order to meet some of the environmental challenges of sustainable business, it is not enough just to improve the company’s own operations – it must take steps to help partners and suppliers improve their own processes. In Apple’s case, this means working with smaller partners to build better business practices; The company’s recent announcement that its supply chain has doubled its use of clean power is part of that investment.
Discussing some of these efforts at a meeting of the UN Climate Change Conference in 2021, Apple CEO Tim Cook explained:
“It simply came to our notice then. Together we can transform into a carbon neutral economy and usher in a new era of inclusive opportunities. It is a moment of ambition, cooperation and leadership. “
What about the customer?
Apple is embracing this use as part of its sustainable goal to see how consumers use its products. Its most recent environmental progress report explains that the energy used throughout the life of its product is responsible for 22% of its carbon footprint. As a result, Apple continues to use its products to reduce energy consumption.
The M1 Mac Mini uses 60% less power than its predecessor, while the average product power consumption across all of Apple’s major product lines has dropped by more than 70% since 2008. You need to ensure that your customers use your products and how such uses are sustainable The challenge the company has to face.
What if things get old?
I’m sure anyone in the Apple tech industry is as guilty as paying little attention to the impact of his business. Thousands of Apple products will be buried in landfills somewhere in America. But it turns out that this was not a good idea, spreading pollution and wasting scarce resources.
Things have changed, which is why Apple is now working harder to make products reusable. The company continues to discuss its work towards creating a closed-loop manufacturing system, where new products are made from old ones. Combined with a more sustainable manufacturing process, it will help meet sustainability goals.
The company’s environmental responsibility teams are also more involved in product development than ever before, which means Apple’s solutions are designed to be easier and more completely recyclable as it works towards that closed-loop manufacturing process.
Get the ingredients right
One of the biggest bugs in technology is the use of very valuable minerals and metals such as cobalt in electronic products. Many of these rich sources sit in the middle of highly unstable regions, giving rise to the name “conflict minerals”. Their business is so lucrative that in some cases children are used to dig them up, working on weapons for trivial reasons for health or safety.
This is proving difficult to solve, but Apple at least reports on its efforts. Its latest anti-mining report states that it has removed 163 smelters and refiners from its supply chain who have failed to pass audits against such trades.
Labor and human rights must also be considered. There have been frequent reports of bad working conditions across the Apple supply chain, and while things seem to have improved, even this year we have seen riots in Chinese factories, when a facility in India was shut down for bad working conditions.
After all, it shows that globally, these kinds of challenges should always be policed; Worst of all, it proves that there must be transparency in every company across every part of the supply chain to prevent unethical business practices from becoming mandatory because everyone else is involved with them.
“In order to start taking the right steps before it’s too late, businesses need to be responsible for their entire end-to-end supply chain, from the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ production model,” wrote Janquill Hackenberg of Infosys.
And, for technology, don’t ignore the amount of water needed to make the products we use. Not apples. It knows that TSMC used 63 million tons of water in 2019 to make the processor and is running a clean water program, which means suppliers are using more water each year.
Do not skip the packaging and other details
For most of us, the most obvious manifestation of Apple’s work towards sustainability is something we encounter early in the customer experience – packaging.
Apple has changed the way it packages its devices, avoiding plastics where possible, and relying on renewable forests where it continues to invest heavily.
Many of its new packaging designs seem to echo the complexities of Japanese paper folding (origami). Apple has always thought deeply about packaging (there are even a lot of remote work videos about it) – and in its more fancy way it still creates an unboxing experience that usually starts with a tear. (Also the home of the Apple Round pizza box.)
The last row?
For sustainable business practice, enterprises need to examine every part of product travel. The box in which you sent your product is not a discount – nor is it the journey it took. It is only a matter of time before Apple (and others) adopt the blockchain to record the journey of the whole product.
Supply chain matters
Apple has famously followed an on-demand model for its business operations, trying to keep very few stocks in hand. It was before the epidemic. For Apple, and for everyone else, the COVID-19 elaborates on the need to build elastic supply chains.
We know Apple is trying to expand production to additional countries to help meet future supply chain challenges, but Frank Apple, CEO of the Deutsche Post DHL Group, told the Apple World Economic Forum:
“Leaders need to rebuild supply chains to be more resistant to single source disruptions, such as suppliers using multi-sourcing, or multiple trade lanes and modes of transport.”
I think this aspect of sustainability for Apple could work in progress.
[Also read: Enterprise tech? Don’t forget to make it human]
There is also a business case for sustainability
Sustainability should not be seen as political, but it seems to be something that has turned into politics. It is beyond me to explore, but if there is one “more thing” that every business should consider considering its own sustainability goals, it is the cost of not tackling the challenge.
As you can see, businesses that aren’t trying to be sustainable now because of the cost are building a bigger battle for themselves in the future. Today’s consumers are increasingly switching to sustainable problems, and brands that don’t solve them will be penalized because buyers will buy products from them.
This awareness is unlikely to disappear as climate emergencies occur more frequently, which means the cost of inactivity can be much higher than the cost of action if you want to keep your business sustainable.
Consumers value sustainability and will spend more with someone else to get it, according to Deloitte, who told us not only that rich consumers are already more involved in these problems, but also warned: “Ethics is more important to miserable consumers. They can choose the brand for their moral values … “
These young consumers are the biggest buyers of tomorrow and they are looking for brands that make their value clear. In this context sustainability is not a luxury item, but a business essential.
All of these reasons and a few more explain why Apple’s green slide should no longer be ignored.
Follow me TwitterOr join me on AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple discussion group on MeWe.
Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.