Achieving sustainability in the mobile phone industry.
By Marcos Badessich
Business & the Natural Environment
University of Bath
Semester 2, 2015.
Apple is an American tech giant headquartered in Cupertino, California. The company designs, manufactures, and markets mobile communication and media devices, personal computers (PCs), and portable digital music players, and sells a variety of related software, services, peripherals, networking solutions, and third-party digital content and applications. The company primarily operates in the US, Europe and Asia Pacific, and employed 92,600 people as of September 27, 2014 (MarketLine, 2014) This piece of work will focus on Apple´s biggest selling product, the most successful mobile phone of all time: the iPhone, On March 9, 2015, at the Apple Watch release conference, Tim Cook, Apple’s current CEO, revealed that more than 700 million iPhones had been sold up to date. As years go by, Apple seems to be selling more and more of these devices, reaching a mind-blowing 74,5 million units sold on the last quarter of 2014 (Apple Inc., 2014). This essay aims to identify Apple´s main environmental impacts as its mobile phone production keeps escalating. Moreover, it will analyse and assess the company´s current efforts to tackle these issues, and produce viable recommendations to where their activities can be improved.
2. Environmental Impacts of an iPhone.
The ecological impacts of an iPhone in its production stage can be classified in two: those associated with direct greenhouse gas emissions, particularly carbon dioxide (CO2), and those caused by the extraction, processing and integration of the main materials to the phone. For practical purposes, this report will use Apple´s new flagship device, the iPhone 6 Plus, as a reference for the industry. 2.1. Greenhouse gas emissions:
Greenhouse gas emissions during the production stage1 of an iPhone 6 Plus account for 81% of the total CO2 released by it during its lifespan (Apple Inc., 2014). 89.1 kg of CO2 are released into the atmosphere every time an iPhone is assembled. Meaning that if 74.5 million units have been sold up to date, approximately 6,637 million kg of CO2 have been released into the atmosphere since the production stage of the new iPhone began, only 6 months ago. The average American car releases 3,768.96 kg of CO2 per year (American Forests, 2014)2; meaning that in 6 months, Apple has emitted the same amount of CO2 as 1,760,963 American drivers do in a whole year. And this does not even account for the whole product range of the company, even less the whole of its operations. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, naturally present in our Earth´s biosphere even before life began. It is an essential element to our survival as a species, for two main reasons. First, it traps some of the sun´s energy and keeps it inside our atmosphere, warming the planet and keeping it in a desirable temperature range, henceforth its “greenhouse gas” denomination. Second, it is necessary to all of our world´s plants, since they “breathe” it during the photosynthesis process. CO2 concentration in the atmosphere has increased by more than 35% since the pre-industrial revolution age, and this increase is almost all due to human activity. This volume is higher today than at any time in at least 650.000 years (American Forests, 2014). A well-known and respected group of scientists3 introduced the concept of 9 planetary boundaries, 9 thresholds that if we humans were to cross, it would have catastrophic consequences to our planet´s fragile state of balance. These boundaries define a safe operating space for humanity, meaning that the scientists were able to measure, and quantify, the exact limits in each of them. One of these boundaries is climate change, and it has two main parameters that affect it: CO2 concentration in the atmosphere, and changes in radiative forcing. We have already...
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