Take a byte of Apple with a pinch of salt

Apple’s legendary late CEO Steve Jobs was famous for what the tech press called his ‘reality distortion field’. By the sheer force of his conviction, Jobs was able to make interlocutors believe what he wanted them to – sometimes a warped version of reality. Tim Cook might be no Steve Jobs in this regard. But Apple is effectively pressing its formidable marketing machine into service to recreate the same effect. A case in point is the corporate giant’s recent promotional video starring actor Octavia Spencer as Mother Nature, in a sketch premised on CEO Cook and other staffers updating her on the company’s climate initiatives. The effort to turn a routine and dull sustainability report more compelling is doubtless admirable. But creative liberties sit at odds with the integrity required in climate reporting. This is all the more dicey as Apple seeks to harvest real commercial gains from its positioning as a climate-friendly corporation.

The video’s jubilant parade of claims might lull you into believing Apple’s journey towards carbon neutrality is much farther along than it actually is. The reality is far from it. Apple aims to achieve a 63% reduction in GHG emissions by 2030, from a 2019 baseline. It is using the questionable mechanism of carbon credits to offset the remainder to make the carbon-neutrality claim, taking advantage of the lack of a standardised meaning for the term. Even by 2050, the company is only hoping to achieve a 90% reduction in GHG emissions. Its claim that it is now selling carbon-neutral Apple watches is also reliant on carbon credits-based offset mechanisms, which are deemed contentious among climate activists and scholars.

Apple does creditable sustainability work. It should avoid using slick marketing to exaggerate its climate ambitions.


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