Apple yesterday announced two new projects to help boost its environmental profile in China, and also said construction has completed on a major solar project in Sichuan.
The company said its first measure is to expand its clean energy investments in China by committing to building 200 megawatts of solar projects in northern, eastern and southern China.
The energy produced will be the equivalent of that used by 265,000 homes in China and, significantly, Apple says it will help offset the energy used in Apple’s supply chain.
The US tech giant has come under significant pressure over the past few years regarding the actions of its Chinese suppliers Foxconn Technology and UniMicron in creating pollution.
Apple has made significant efforts to address the criticism over the years. To that end, it says its second initiative is to partner with its suppliers to build more than 2 gigawatts of clean energy sources in China.
At the top of the statement, Apple spells out the positive effects of its two new projects, saying they will avoid more than 20 million tonnes of greenhouse gases by 2020, equivalent to taking almost 4 million cars off the road for a year.
The release goes even further and specifies that Foxconn will install 400 megawatts of solar energy by 2018, adding that Foxconn has committed to generate as much clean energy as its Zhengzhou factory consumes in making iPhones.
"We are excited to embark on this initiative with Apple," said Terry Gou, founder and CEO of Foxconn. Our companies share a vision for driving sustainability and I hope that this renewable energy project will serve as a catalyst for continued efforts to promote a greener ecosystem in our industry and beyond.
"Sustainability is a core pillar in Foxconn’s strategy and we are committed to investing in green manufacturing."
Apple says it will also share best practices and provide hands-on assistance to its suppliers in being cleaner, greener companies.
Furthermore, in completing construction of its Sichuan solar project, Apple says it is now producing more energy through renewable means than it uses across its 19 offices and 24 stores in China, making its operations carbon neutral.
Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives, said: "Being responsible, protecting air and water, and driving clean energy are at the heart of Apple’s commitment to China.
"These projects go beyond Apple’s operations in China to help our suppliers adopt clean renewable energy."
Czarina Cabuyadao, account manager at the Hoffman Agency, told PRWeek Asia that Apple’s plans are strategic and sustainable, rather than being simply an attempt to address any negativity associated with the brand in China.
"The new age of CSR requires companies to understand their strengths and leverage on what they can offer. Apple is playing on its strength as a powerful brand, with a bevy of resources to offer when it announced its environmental projects in China," she said.
"This venture is crucial and symbolic since China is the company’s second-biggest market by revenue. It shows the brand’s commitment to the market and will help it to gain favour with local officials and Chinese consumers."
Lusha Niu, director at MSLGROUP China, said clean production has become a natural expectation for companies that operate in China, and while Apple’s solar power plants in China may seem like a CSR exercise, it is really an investment in the solar industry.
"Apple has made substantial investment into solar companies back in the US. It may take a while for people in China to realize that Apple is becoming an important investor and participant in the global solar business – just like Elon Musk is also in the business of spaceship and Jeff Bezos in drones," she told PRWeek Asia.
"Not all clean energy projects are charity donations. For companies that want a strong corporate citizenship image, they have to tell a very clear story on the give and take of their actions."