Apple spent a good deal of time in its Wonderlust presentation talking about how the new Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 are carbon neutral when paired with particular watch bands. But what does that mean, and how should those of us not deeply enmeshed in the climate world understand the claim?
While researching how Apple stacks up against other multinational corporations, I stumbled across the NewClimate Institute, a German non-profit whose goal is to “generate ideas on climate change and drive their implementation.” NewClimate publishes the Corporate Climate Responsibility Monitor, which assesses the transparency and integrity of 24 major companies’ climate pledges and strategies. Apple ranks highly in the group.
So what about Apple’s claim that these new Apple Watch models are carbon neutral? A Q&A with the authors of the Corporate Climate Responsibility Monitor leads off with:
Apple is one of very few companies assessed in the Corporate Climate Responsibility Monitor (CCRM, published February 2023) to have set and be implementing reasonably ambitious medium-term emission reduction targets. However, we found that Apple’s carbon neutrality claims create an unnecessarily misleading exaggeration of the company’s ambition. Without the misleading marketing, Apple could stand out as a role model for several aspects of its climate plan, but there remain also significant areas of potential improvement.
Apple has reduced the product emissions for these Apple Watch models by over 75%. That’s great, but Apple offsets the remaining 25% by purchasing carbon credits. Although Apple says it procures credits only from “high-quality” projects, natural carbon credits are controversial because (among other reasons) forestry and land-use projects are likely to be only temporary and thus not equivalent to not emitting the greenhouse gasses in the first place.