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Apple CEO speaks out on climate change, calls new HQ “greenest building on the planet”

Following a weekend of record sales for Apple’s newly launched iPhones, Apple CEO Tim Cook conducted a rare live interview on Monday, but it wasn’t about Apple’s new devices. Instead, Cook took the stage at The Climate Group’s opening ceremony for New York’s Climate Week, and talked about the importance of fighting climate change and embracing sustainability for Apple’s employees, for Apple’s customers and for Cook’s generation, the baby boomers.

Cook said that it’s important to highlight that making sustainable choices — like adopting clean power for Apple’s data centers, removing toxins from Apple’s products and making Apple’s supply chain more efficient — can be both economic choices and environmental choices. For example, a more energy efficient supply chain could save money on energy costs, and less toxic materials could also be less expensive to purchase.

Apple's solar farm next to its data center in Maiden, North Carolina. Image courtesy of Gigaom, Katie Fehrenbacher.
Apple’s solar farm next to its data center in Maiden, North Carolina. Photo by Katie Fehrenbacher/Gigaom.

“If you innovate and set the bar high, you can do both,” Cook said. Apple is using 94 percent renewable energy, said Cook at one point, “and we’re chipping away to get the last six percent.” For more on Apple’s aggressive clean power plan, check out this report.

Apple employees are strongly committed to sustainability, noted Cook: “We’re talking and speaking out in a way that we wouldn’t on our product roadmaps. But on climate, human rights and education, we feel deeply about these. These are at the core of who we are and they’re deep in our values.”

Cook called Apple’s new headquarters, which it’s building in Cupertino, Calif., “I think, the greenest building on the planet.” That’s quite a claim, but provides insight into just how progressive the secretive building will be.

Apple CEO Tim Cook (L) cheers with Apple Store employees before opening the store to sell the new iPhone 6 on September 19, 2014 in Palo Alto, California.  Hundreds of people lined up to to purchase the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus that went on sale today.  (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Apple CEO Tim Cook (L) cheers with Apple Store employees before opening the store to sell the new iPhone 6 on September 19, 2014 in Palo Alto, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

For Apple, making sustainable choices is also a consistent branding and marketing strategy, and Apple says its customers embrace these values, too. “I’m an optimist. I think consumers are really smart and the vast vast majority of the world wants to do the right thing,” Cook said.

Finally, Cook became sentimental when it came to choices that his generation has been making for the environment and for fighting climate change. “Boomers have to look at ourselves deeply and ask if we want to be the first generation who leaves the world worse off.” He added: “From our point of view the time for inaction has past.”

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