‘Many’ of Amazon's Green Initiatives Will Fail, Company Executive Says

Apple's new MacBook Air computers on display during the company's showcase of new products Oct. 30, 2018, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

WASHINGTON – Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives, said Apple believes it can achieve the “ambitious goal” to one day make all of its products “using only recycled materials and renewable resources, reducing the need to mine materials from the earth.”


When it comes to combating climate change, Jackson said there shouldn’t be any “conflict” between a “healthy planet and a healthy bottom line.”

“Now that’s an ambitious goal, one would say a moonshot goal, but it’s one that we believe we can reach because we’re going to use those bright minds in science,” Jackson said at the American Geological Union’s Fall Meeting on Monday.

She said Apple already has two “Daisy” robot lines that disassemble products for materials the company can reuse. Jackson explained that Apple’s latest iPhones, the XS and XR, contain logic boards made from reusable materials. The new Macbook Air is made from recycled aluminum, Jackson added.

“As vitally important as energy usage is, it’s not the only way we should look at our impact [on climate change] – equally important are the materials we use,” she said. “I’m here today to tell you unequivocally that there is no conflict between a healthy planet and a healthy bottom line. It’s a false choice and one we should all take part in rejecting.”

Jackson, former EPA administrator in the Obama administration, told the audience that she “saw and felt the truth of climate change” during Hurricane Katrina. She said that 2018 is on track to be the year with the highest level of greenhouse gases on record. Referring to the wildfires in California, Jackson said, “I can promise you I saw and felt the impact of climate change.”


“The truth is that climate change is here and it’s altering our planet right before our eyes. It is truth you can see and feel and that’s been the case for some time,” she said.

“We are living and feeling and breathing the impact of climate change every day.”

To combat climate change, Jackson explained that Apple has powered their data centers with 100 percent renewable energy. The company’s data centers house user information such as the files they store in iCloud.

“Data centers power billions of tasks that happen on your device, every photo, every FaceTime call, every iMessage, you get the picture,” she said.

Jackson said Apple has established a “green energy fund” to help its suppliers connect with “renewable energy sources” so they can make the move to 100 percent renewable energy.

Jackson told the audience she opposes the Trump administration’s rollback of regulations on coal-fired power plants. She said she decided to leave EPA so she could move from “crafting policy” to “crafting solutions.”

“Climate change demands action and we need to start reversing the damage that has already been done and look for ways to preserve what we still have,” she said. “Science has the potential to shape the work needed.”

Jackson declined to answer follow-up questions after the event.


Kara Hurst, Amazon’s head of worldwide sustainability, said their customers benefit when they integrate “sustainable thinking” into their operations, products and services.

“First and foremost, we’re a customer-obsessed company,” she said at the AGU event.

Hurst said Amazon understands that it must make “public commitments” involving sustainability within its operations.

“Some will have great success and many, many of those will fail. It’s something we’re very comfortable with – we’re comfortable with making big bets, aiming for the moonshots and then failing when we need to and then learning from that,” she said.

Hurst emphasized that Amazon is committed to advocating for action on climate change and the quest to “accelerate the transition” to a “low carbon economy.”

“We do this through work with other companies. We do it through policy initiatives – our work with policymakers and regulators around the world. We don’t do this alone,” she said.

Amazon has a long-term goal to power its global infrastructure by 100 percent renewable energy and it is currently working on solar energy systems on the rooftops of 50 of its fulfillment centers, Hurst explained.

“Today, we’re halfway to that goal,” she said. “We’ve completed 30 large wind and solar project across the United States.”


Hurst said the company is working to improve access to climate-related “datasets” with its new “Sustainability Data Initiative.”

“By removing the burden of data acquisition, the Amazon Sustainability Data Initiative enables faster research at lower cost. To encourage application development, researchers can apply for AWS Promotional Credits through the AWS Cloud Credits for Research program,” read a statement from Amazon about the launch of the initiative. “Offsetting these costs will encourage experimentation and promote innovative solutions. For example, AWS is collaborating with the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) to provide up to $1.5 million in cloud credits for projects to improve the understanding of our planet.”



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