Apple’s Forests Now Sustainable Enough to Cover the Paper Used in All Packaging

by | Jul 28, 2017

(Pictured: Apple Park in Cupertino, CA*)

Apple says that 320,000 acres of working forest in China have been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council and that the company is now protecting and creating enough sustainable working forest to cover the paper use in its packaging for all products.

Apple’s forestry program was launched in 2015 with a five-year partnership with WWF to transition up to one million acres of forest, across southern provinces of China, into responsible management by 2020. Apple’s first goal, to increase responsible management of working forests in China by creating up to 300,000 acres of FSC–certified forests, was reached in just two years, the company points out. Apple says the progress was made through collaboration with two companies in Hunan and Guangxi provinces, one of which will be the largest FSC-certified plantation area in the Chinese pulp and paper sector. WWF worked with both companies to create forest management plans and train their employees to identify High Conservation Value Forest—both necessary for FSC certification.

Apple says the company is continually looking for ways to make its packaging smaller, creating technologies that use paper more efficiently, and using recycled paper whenever possible. In fiscal year 2016, Apple used 131,000 metric tons of fiber, of which 62% was recycled, 38% was virgin fiber from responsibly managed sources, and less than 1% was virgin fiber that did not comply with the company’s sustainable fiber specification, according to the company’s 2017 Environmental Responsibility Report [PDF].

Apple Focuses Efforts in China

In 2015, when Apple announced its purchase of a million acres of forest in China, Fortune pointed out that China is where nearly all of Apple’s products are made and where more iPhones are sold than in any other. At that time, Apple CEO Tim Cook said, “We are excited to work with leaders in our supply chain who want to be on the cutting edge of China’s green transformation.” Apple is also pushing efforts to continue having manufacturers in China use 100% renewable energy in manufacturing its products.

Forests in Supply Chains at Risk

The CDP – formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project – recently launched a supply chain platform encouraging collaboration and transparency among organizations in terms of their value chain, particularly as it relates to how they are managing the risks linked to deforestation. The CDP says deforestation is responsible for 10% to 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Companies disclosing to CDP revealed that nearly 25% of their revenues depend on the four commodities responsible for most tropical forest loss: cattle, timber, palm oil and soy. Deforestation therefore represents a significant business risk, with 2016 CDP analysis revealing that as much as $906 billion in annual turnover could be at stake.

Eight major corporations including McDonald’s and L’Oreal joined the newly-expanded supply chain platform of CDP last month, saying they are combining their purchasing power to achieve deforestation-free commodity supply chains.

*And speaking of trees, Apple says over 80% of Apple Park, its new campus in Cupertino, is open space with more than 9000 drought-tolerant trees. Apple also reclaimed old-growth oak trees from California landscapes where they would otherwise have been destroyed. To conserve water, the new campus uses 75% recycled nonpotable water to care for its dense forest and to run other onsite facilities where fresh water isn’t required.

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