Apple CEO Tim Cook Wants to Prove Climate Initiatives and Profit Can Coexist

"We want people to look at this and rip it off."

Apple Unveils iPhone 15 And Other New Products
Apple CEO Tim Cook delivers remarks during an Apple special event on September 12, 2023 in Cupertino, California. Apple is set to unveil the new iPhone 15 and Apple Watch. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

At Apple (AAPL)’s iPhone 15 reveal event last week, carbon neutrality was a prevailing theme threaded throughout product presentations. CEO Tim Cook even acted in a skit highlighting the company’s many environmental initiatives. The purpose, Cook said, is to prove that environmental choices can make business sense and be replicated by other companies.

“I want to see that it pencils out because I want people to copy it. I know they are not going to copy a decision that’s not a good economic decision,” Cook told CBS Sunday Morning in its latest episode that aired yesterday (Sept. 17).

Apple has set the ambitious goal of being carbon neutral across its entire value chain—from manufacturing to shipping to recycling—by 2030. The company said it reached net carbon neutrality in all of its office buildings in 2020. The next area to tackle will be its products, which account for 22 percent of Apple’s gross carbon footprint, the company has said.

To Apple, carbon neutrality means matching every bit of carbon released by Apple devices with clean energy or carbon capture, the process of directly trapping carbon dioxide generated from industrial activities and storing it away in a long-term location. To that end, Apple has invested in multiple solar projects around the world, including a 2,300-acre solar farm in Brown County, Texas, where CBS interviewed Cook. The facility has nearly a million solar panels, stretching four miles, that can power 100,000 homes.

Apple owns stakes in similar projects in Oregon, California, China and Singapore, Cook said.

“It can be done, and it can be done in a way that others can replicate,” the Apple CEO told CBS. “We want to be the ripple in the pond. I want people to look at this and say, ‘I can do that, too’ or ‘I can do half of that.’ We want people to look at this and rip it off.”

At last week’s event, Apple revealed four new iPhones and the new Apple Watch Series 9, its first completely carbon-neutral product. Last year, Apple sold about 15 million Apple Watches, compared with roughly 200 million iPhones.

There’s no sign Apple’s investment in environmental projects has weighed on its profitability. In the latest fiscal quarter, the tech giant posted better-than-expected revenue and net earnings, driven by strong iPhone sales and services growth.

Apple CEO Tim Cook Wants to Prove Climate Initiatives and Profit Can Coexist