Apple is celebrating Earth Day this week by shining a spotlight on its clean energy and carbon footprint reduction initiatives. While Apple has been working on having 100 percent of its data centers run on renewable energy sources for a couple years, the company on Monday is showing off an environmentally-themed video narrated by CEO Tim Cook, accompanied by some awesome solar photos on Apple.com, and a long feature in Wired on its clean power projects.
Why now (beyond the somewhat contrived Earth Day event)? When I published this investigative piece last November on Apple’s solar projects, it was difficult to get information from Apple on the projects. Now about six months later, Apple is ready to talk.
One of the reasons for Apple’s new willingness to talk is that many of Apple’s clean power projects are now far beyond the experimental phase. Its flagship solar farms in North Carolina are up and running and providing energy to the grid, and, as Wired reported, Apple has already started installing a small solar array made by SunPower at its newest solar farm in Reno, Nevada. Apple has learned a lot over the years about how to procure clean energy, and work with utilities, and is ready to tell that story (it definitely wasn’t an easy road).
The company’s new environmental chief Lisa Jackson has also been on the job about a year now, which has given her some time to make decisions and figure out Apple’s environmental initiatives. She’s fixed some things along the way, like the fact that Apple was underreporting the impact of aluminum mining and processing on its carbon footprint, according to Wired.
The next step for Jackson after helping Apple’s data centers run on clean energy is to focus on the clean power footprint of Apple’s retail stores. Apple now has 120 stores powered only by renewable energy courses, and it has another 135 to go in the U.S., as well another few hundred overseas.
It’s important that Apple is finally willing to highlight its clean power projects and tell this story of transforming energy infrastructure. Other internet companies that haven’t invested in similar moves — like Twitter and Amazon, according to the latest report from Greenpeace — will be watching and taking notes on how to respond.
The next-generation of consumers will care more about the carbon footprint and sustainability of their brands than the last, and implementing these moves now will help internet brands gain customers and remain relevant.