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CEO Tim Cook sweeps Apple's inconvenient truths under a solar panel

Don’t mention Foxconn, repairs or bulldozers

Vid Apple is making a big deal about its green credentials, including a slick advert voiced by CEO Tim Cook, ahead of the annual eco-friendly love-in Earth Day.

On Monday Apple released the advert, dubbed "Better", in which Cook expounds on how Apple is doing its best to make the world's environment a better place by using 100 per cent renewable power in its data centers and a new manufacturing facility powered exclusively by renewable energy.

"Better can't be better if it doesn't consider everything: our products, our values, and an even stronger commitment to our environment for the future – to use greener materials, less packaging, and to do everything we can to keep products out of landfills," said a soft-voiced Cook.

Along with the video, Apple has put up a website extolling its green credentials and providing examples such as the iMac. The first iMac consumed 35W of power in sleep mode, the site points out, compared to 0.9W with the latest model.

Some of the examples do seem to be pushing the bounds of credulity, however. For example, the firm claims a win in planting climate change–variable trees on the site of its new $5bn Fruit Loop campus, a facility it claims won't emit a single atom of carbon into the environment – once the bulldozers and construction workers have left and the concrete used has finished outgassing, that is.

The website also neglects to mention that the vast majority of Apple's hardware is produced in China by Foxconn and others, who are about as green as an over-ripe tomato being chauffeured in a scarlet Ferrari. Not deliberately designing kit to be hard to fix would also help.

That said, the company has been making strides to improve its environmental record. A few years ago, Apple was regularly slammed by Greenpeace in the pressure group's semi-annual green ratings, but that has now changed and its cloud data centers make more use of renewable power than most in the IT industry.

A lot of the motivating force behind this shift has come from Cook himself – while Steve Jobs might have espoused granola values, he was very tardy in practicing what he preached. Cook is much more forthright, telling investors that if they didn't want Apple to worry about the environment they should sell their stock.

There's plenty of greenwashing in the technology industry, and an awful lot of the "environmental improvements" companies are making are simply good economic cost-saving measures rather than a desire to improve the planet we live on.

Apple should get a measure of kudos for their recent efforts, but something tells us Tim Cook will have a long way to go before he's hailed as the environment's savior. ®

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