Apple has announced two new sustainability projects in China this Wednesday, hoping to begin offsetting the carbon footprint of their entire supply chain.
The company has already completed the construction of a 40 megawatt solar project in Sichuan, which the company claims produces more than the total electricity of their China offices and retail operations.
The newly announced projects include the construction of a 200 megawatt solar projects across China’s north, east and southern regions. The will also partner with suppliers to build a further 2 gigawatts worth of clean energy projects in the coming years, hoping to avoid a total of 20 million metric tons of greenhouse gas, roughly equivalent to removing 4 million vehicles from the road for one year.
It comes at a time when China itself is stepping up its commitment to clean energy. The country is the world’s largest polluter, but has taken an active role in setting climate goals ahead of the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference in Paris starting this November. This September they rolled out plans for their own emissions trading scheme, capping emissions and allowing the trade of carbon credits.
“Climate change is one of the great challenges of our time, and the time for action is now,” said Apple CEO tim Cook in a statement on their latest projects.
Among the company’s partners involved in the project is Taiwan-based iPhone manufacturer Foxconn, who will build a 400 megawatt solar project in China’s Henan province with a deadline of 2018, looking to make the final production process carbon neutral.
“We are excited to embark on this initiative with Apple. Our companies share a vision for driving sustainability and I hope that this renewable energy project will serve as a catalyst for continued efforts,” said Foxconn CEO Terry Gou. Foxconn recently revealed plans to spend $5 billion USD to build new manufacturing operations in India.
Apple’s U.S. operations are already carbon neutral, as are their office and retail operations in China, though offsetting the the carbon emissions of their entire supply chain – a large part of which is in China – is a much more complicated process. Like many global tech hardware brands, Apple struggles to control the entire supply chain. In December last year a BBC documentary claimed that Apple had failed to adequately protect factory workers, while in 2013 Apple themselves had discovered 106 cases of child labor in their supply chain through an internal audit.
Despite the challenges of monitoring a complex supply chain throughout several developing countries, Apple is committed to offsetting more than just their own carbon footprint. “These projects go beyond Apple’s operations in China to help our suppliers adopt clean renewable energy,” said Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives.
Apple expects they will meet their goal of removing 20 million metric tonnes of carbon in China by 2020.