Apple Reveals Solar Energy Programs To Clean Up Its Manufacturing Partners In China

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Apple has plunged billions of dollars into making its global operations more efficient with renewable energy. The bulk of that push, which has won praise from Greenpeacehas come in the U.S. and Europe, but today Apple unveiled a suite of initiatives designed to make its business in China — the country where its revenue is positively booming — greener, too.

Timed in conjunction with CEO Tim Cook’s visit to the country, the U.S. company revealed that it will work with its manufacturing partners in China to help them “become more energy efficient and to use clean energy for their manufacturing operations.” Apple further explained that it is working with said suppliers, which include Foxconn, to add more than two gigawatts of ‘clean’ energy to those operations in the next few years.

That move alone is notable, since Apple’s China-based manufacturers have long been accused of polluting the environment. Back in 2011, iPhone supplier Pegatron was reprimanded over environmental concerns, while Apple reportedly clamped down on Foxconn and UniMicron in 2013 following accusations that they released water tainted by toxic metals into rivers.

One company’s initiatives won’t elicit a full clean up of China’s manufacturing industry, but Apple putting pressure on its partners to be more environmental friendly is a major development. Indeed, Foxconn’s own pledge today to create 400 megawatts of solar power by 2018 — the equivalent, it said, of the energy it uses for “final production” of the iPhone — is proof of the potential for change.

Apple also revealed today that its operations in China are now carbon neutral. That’s because — thanks to the completion of a 40 megawatts solar power system in the Sichuan Province — the company now produces more electricity in China than it uses in its offices and retail stores in the country.

The U.S. giant said it isn’t done there, and it plans to extend its solar projects with an additional 200 megawatts through projects in the north, east and south of China. It claimed that, once these additional facilities come online, its green energy production “will produce the equivalent of the energy used by more by than 265,000 Chinese homes in a year and will begin to offset the energy used in Apple’s supply chain.”

“Climate change is one of the great challenges of our time, and the time for action is now,” Cook said in a statement. “The transition to a new green economy requires innovation, ambition and purpose. We believe passionately in leaving the world better than we found it and hope that many other suppliers, partners and other companies join us in this important effort.”

Apple is certainly setting the bar for others to follow. The company is carbon neutral in the U.S. and China, while it claimed that renewable energy powers 87 percent of its international operations.

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