Apple’s Lisa Jackson Outlines the Company’s Plans to Transition Suppliers to Clean Energy

Apple wants its suppliers to follow in its footsteps and transition over to clean energy.

Image: Apple

In a new Fast Company new interview, Apple’s vice president of environmental, social, and policy initiatives Lisa Jackson notes that every Apple store, data centre, and office runs on clean energy. But now, the Cupertino company hopes to help its suppliers do the same thing.

“If you look at our corporate carbon footprint, over 70% is in the supply chain,” says Jackson, who previously served as head of the EPA during the Obama administration. “And, of course, those aren’t facilities that we own or operate. But we wanted them to have this access to the same high-quality clean energy that we did.”

Apple announced last week that it had recently invested in the China Clean Energy Fund by way of three new wind farms in the country. The goal of the project, according to Jackson, is to help the Cupertino company’s suppliers transition to clean energy:

One of the things about a supply chain like ours is that it’s not a static thing. So we needed to be able to work with suppliers on kind of short notice to put money into a fund and almost pool their buying power. If we had a number of suppliers in one region, we could use that fund, which we invested in as well, and say, okay, let’s put clean energy on the grid for all of you.

Some of Apple’s suppliers have difficulty managing regulatory requirements, and Jackson says one of the goals of the project is to help them deal with legal issues in ways that go beyond just financial support:

We created a web portal, which sounds like a little thing, but there just aren’t that many places where small or medium-size businesses can go and get the information from a trusted source to show them (in addition to their main business, which might be making components for Apple and others), how to do clean energy and do it the right way and ensure that they get quality clean energy that’s going to be put on the grid, so it actually makes a difference.

The Apple exec also stressed the fact that Apple hopes to help transition its supply chain to clean energy in a financially-sensible way:

We don’t want it to be done where it’s a loss, or where it feels like it’s something you do as charity, because that’s not sustainable. And we know that the opportunities in clean energy right now are such that clean energy is cheaper in many, many places than traditional grid power.

Jackson noted that Apple’s investment in the China Clean Energy Fund marks the first time the company has made an effort to aid its suppliers in their transition to clean energy — she says all they needed was an extra push:

I think some of the larger suppliers were looking at it, but in China, although the government policies have been supportive of clean energy, I think there haven’t been a great a number of firms—and certainly not ones we work with on the manufacturing side— who were willing to take that chance. They see a pretty big payoff and a pretty big benefit.

The full interview with Lisa Jackson is an interesting insight into Apple’s environmental goals with its supply chain and can be read in its entirety over at Fast Company.