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Apple’s Lisa Jackson: Indian govt’s commitment to energy is like a wind at our back

Source: Nandagopal Rajan || IE Online Media Services Pvt Ltd

6 Mar 2023

Lisa Jackson: "We are in year three of a 10-year goal. I'm really proud of the fact that we have seen carbon emissions continue to decrease across the company, except for the last environment report where carbon emissions actually stayed the same."

The first Black person to become Administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency, Lisa Jackson is now Apple’s vice-president of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives, overseeing the company’s efforts to minimise its impact on the environment by “addressing climate change through renewable energy and energy efficiency, using greener materials, and inventing new ways to conserve precious resources”. Under her, Apple committed to the ambitious goal of achieving carbon neutrality across its global supply chain and the life cycle of every product by 2030. Nandagopal Rajan spoke to her during her visit to New Delhi. Edited excerpts:

Where is Apple in its journey towards achieving carbon neutrality?

We are doing well. We set the goal in 2020… it was a 10-year goal at the time. So we are in year three of a 10-year goal. I’m really proud of the fact that we have seen carbon emissions continue to decrease across the company, except for the last environment report where carbon emissions actually stayed the same. But our production went way up, we made and sold a lot more devices. We call that decoupling, we were able to separate how much we make and sell from how our carbon intensity is. We are about to release our next environment report.. we always do that around mid-April for Earth Day… and there will be some good news there as well. It’s a very aggressive goal, but we are gonna make it, we have to make it.

Did Covid become a hurdle in this journey with supply chains and manufacturing impacted across the world?

At Apple, all of our supply chain and all of our users’ energy needs to be green. What’s been fascinating, of course, is that with COVID the world, in general, had to learn new ways to work so that we could continue to keep economies moving. It was no different for Apple, we actually had some pretty amazing innovations and products that were released during COVID. It’s been remarkable to watch the company move to a different way of working even in design and manufacturing. And so we have also had the same success with clean energy and with our climate goals as the company has continued to move. I would say it’s another innovation. It’s a challenge in terms of how to get it done. But we haven’t seen a huge slowdown and we don’t expect to see one. In fact, we have to keep moving quicker at this point.

Does Apple have a blanket approach to environmental sustainability or is it a bit extra sensitive when it comes to some geographies?

We have to approach it where we are. I mean, we are a global company, but we have customers around the world. India is a great example. Here, we have customers and we hope that continues to grow but we also have manufacturing and offices where Apple employees come to work and every time we have an office, the energy that powers that office has to be renewable because that’s what we have pledged to do in 2030. And you can’t wait until 2029 to do the work.

One of the things I loved about the 2030 goal when we set it is that we knew Apple as a company would continue to grow. And we knew it meant that it was not a stagnant goal. Once you get to 100% renewable in India, it only lasts until the next office building opens or the next facility opens. When you get your manufacturing in India to 100% renewable, it’s only good until you add a new supplier. So it’s a very active, kinetic goal.

We really love that as we have more people who use our devices in India it means more power has to be green on the grid in order to make that power carbon neutral. What makes India so special is the government’s very strong commitment to solar, to low carbon energy. It’s like a wind at your back as you are trying to move it along. And we actually find, because the world has set this goal through the COP process, countries are taking it seriously and businesses know that governments are watching to make sure they are doing their part. We are saying if you want to do business with Apple, we expect you to take on the responsibility of climate change just as we have.

Is that more difficult to do in a country like India where you have a lot of support from the government, but the ecosystem itself is maybe just opening up to the concepts of renewable energy?

One thing that has surprised me has been how eager the people in our supply chain are to meet us and join us in the carbon-neutral goal. I won’t say it makes it easier, but everyone is pushing in the same direction. You don’t have people saying, I don’t want to be engaged in this, because they know the government expects it, not just Apple. So I wouldn’t say it’s harder… in some ways that make it easier because everyone knows that it has to be done in some ways. It makes it harder a little because there are so many things going on at the same time. People assume as soon as you leave the US, no one wants to do this work. It’s almost the opposite. Countries see an opportunity to leapfrog over traditional energy and go straight to renewable energy. There is a huge opportunity in that.

Do you think being carbon neutral, energy efficient and giving back to the community should be a standard approach for all companies? Is that even possible for all companies to do?

Every company should recognise in this day and age that your future and your ability to do business depends on people’s belief that you’re doing right by their community, by where you are working, by your workers, but also the communities around where you work. It’s sort of almost like permission to be there. You have to be, this is about our children. This is about future generations.

I think it should be standard that every company takes on the responsibility. I know that we at Apple hold ourselves to a very high standard in terms of when we say carbon neutral, we are not just gonna go out and buy offsets because we know that some offsets maybe are not high quality, you’re not really sure what you are getting. We do need to use some offsets as there are some emissions we just can’t stop at this point, we don’t have the technology.

But we are committed to innovation as a really important part of how we get to carbon neutral. Innovation in our materials innovation in the circular economy and recycling innovation across the board. And that’s kind of part of what makes Apple. I wish everyone would do it as we do. But part of what we are doing here is we are willing to share how we do it. We work with our supply chain to help them make the transition to clean energy and do it in a way that’s good for their business. At the end of the day, we have to find a way to do it within the business dynamics. The government has other imperatives and is helping with policies and economic incentives, but as a business, it’s how you take advantage of this opportunity.

How happy are you with the efforts in India?

At Apple, we have to have big goals and we have to work in big ways. We are not going to get to 2030 with tiny projects, but we also need to show up in communities. We need to show them the promise of clean energy, show them the promise of low carbon, and what it means for their community. In Maharashtra, where AERF (Applied Environmental Research Foundation) is working, the people may not know anything about carbon, but they know these mangroves are a source of livelihood and if there’s a way that a local fisherman can be paid to preserve them, it is additional pay and that supports their families. It also has the great advantage of preserving the mangroves, which are a huge sink for carbon, one of the best in the world. Those two things happen together and the community is better for it. So we look for projects, that also touch communities and show the power and the promise of clean energy. Barefoot College is another idea… that these women can make a livelihood out of being solar mamas and solar engineers is really powerful.

Seeing so much acceleration in terms of climate change, do you think efforts from companies like Apple needs to change pace too?

When we set the 2030 goal, it was sooner than anyone was asking companies to decarbonise and we did that on purpose. We asked what is the most aggressive way we can do it and I like to remind people we couldn’t just set a goal, we had to come up with a roadmap, just like we have a roadmap for every product that Apple eventually releases. There’s a roadmap for years to get to that product.

We have the same kind of roadmap to get to carbon neutral in 2030. So I would say we set an aggressive target knowing the science. And on days when it’s incredibly hot or when we are looking at droughts or when we are looking at wildfires, we know what impact that is having on communities and on health. I am a huge believer that at the end of the day, it is our humanity that will solve this problem that each one of us will have to care for our communities and our families. And we have to do it as fast as we can. We have to make it just as important as if it was our child as if it was our home as if it was our water. And when we do that, then we will all act with the urgency that we should. There’s a reason its global climate change… none of us can be safe if all of us aren’t.

SOURCE: IE Online Media Services Pvt Ltd

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