Leave it to Steve Jobs to use Apple’s carbon footprint disclosure as a way to disrupt the very way that carbon footprint calculations for products are made. Like Jobs does with all other aspects of Apple, he’s launched a major green effort, but done it in his own way, while maintaining control over his own brand. In one of the only interviews Jobs has given in recent weeks, he explained to Business Week how he wants to change the way the industry calculates companies’ environmental records.
For the first time Apple has now divulged its carbon footprint: 10.2 million tons of carbon emissions annually. That’s significantly larger than competitors HP (8.4 million tons) and Dell (471,000 tons). But Apple’s figure takes into account the carbon emitted when consumers use its products, as well as the carbon emissions from product manufacturing. Apple’s competitors don’t often take into account product use, or emissions from manufacturing.
Jobs emphasizes in the Business Week article that the carbon footprint of its operations is far less important than the carbon footprint of its products. This very issue has drawn criticism for companies like Dell in the past, which skeptics claim neglects emissions from its products. Jobs tells Business Week:
A lot of companies publish how green their building is, but it doesn’t matter if you’re shipping millions of power-hungry products with toxic chemicals in them. . . It’s like asking a cigarette company how green their office is.
On this point I completely agree and I think that Apple’s announcement will help get competitors like Dell and HP to offer more low-energy products and gadgets with less toxic chemicals. But of course companies want to tweak these types of processes to best reflect their own records.
I thought it was also particularly interesting that Jobs was so peeved about all the criticism that Green Peace and others have hurled at Apple (APPL). Job’s passion — and what Apple excels at over every other consumer electronics and computing company in the industry — is maintaining obsessive control over its brand. So having third parties like Green Peace take control over, and tarnish, the company’s image in this area, particularly given that green has become increasingly “cool” over the past couple of years, was clearly a very big deal to Jobs.