Apple Uses Earth Day to Announce Green Initiatives, Provoke Samsung

By Michelle Maisto  |  Posted 2014-04-22

Apple Uses Earth Day to Announce Green Initiatives, Provoke Samsung

Apple, on Earth Day, announced to visitors to its site: "We want to leave the world better than we found it." That's a tall order for a company that keeps factories churning, turning plastic and chemicals and metal into hundreds of millions of devices that head to all corners of the world. But, in a smartphone market struggling to create new attention-grabbing innovations, it's also a new way for Apple to set a high bar in its competition with Samsung, and to hurdle over it.

"We aim to create not just the best products in the world, but the best products for the world," Lisa Jackson, Apple's vice president of environmental initiatives, wrote in an expanded Environmental Responsibility section on the Apple Website.

"We have a long way to go, but we are proud of our progress," she continued. "For example, every one of our data centers is powered entirely by clean sources such as solar, wind and geothermal energy. So whenever you download a song, update an app or ask Siri a question, the energy Apple uses is provided by nature."

Elsewhere on the site, Apple added, "We're still the only company in our industry whose data centers are powered by 100 percent renewable energy and whose entire product line not only meets but far exceeds strict Energy Star guidelines."

Also posted to the site is a new ad (Apple calls it a "film") called Better, in which CEO Tim Cook's voice plays over images of nature, Apple products being made in factories and Apple's data centers, including the array of solar panels that power its data center in Maiden, N.C.

"We have a long way to go, and a lot to learn," says Cook. "But now, more than ever, we will work to leave the world better than we found it and make the tools that inspire others to do the same."

But most provocative of all—and most clearly needling Samsung, Apple's constant courtroom companion—was a newspaper ad that also ran April 22, showing the same solar array in Maiden, under the words: "There are some ideas we want every company to copy."

Apple is using its green credibility, however much it has, to "pound Samsung," analyst Roger Kay, with Endpoint Technologies, told eWEEK.

"There may be a drop of sincerity in there somewhere, but it's mostly a cynical campaign to besmirch a rival in an area where Apple has a comparative strength," Kay continued. "After all, a lot of the most toxic manufacturing is done in South Korea (as well as China, of course). Gallium arsenide (GaAs), for example, is largely made in South Korea. We're happy to use the chips, once they're made, but we don't want to poison our own rivers making them."

Analyst Jack Narcotta, with Technology Business Research (TBR), points out the significance of the decision not to hire an actor to perform the voiceover in the ad.

"It's Tim, articulating his vision for the company he leads," said Narcotta.

"I think it's his mission statement. It's Tim putting his stamp on the company and moving it out from under [Steve Jobs' shadow] and saying, 'This is what we're going to be pursuing.'"

Apple Uses Earth Day to Announce Green Initiatives, Provoke Samsung

Cook made headlines in March when he made the same point at Apple's shareholder meeting, if with a little less polish.

After a representative for a right-wing think tank tried to get Cook to say he wouldn't pursue environmental initiatives if they weren't also profitable, the usually soft-spoken and controlled Cook retorted, "When we work on making our devices accessible by the blind, I don't consider the bloody ROI. … We do a lot of things for reasons besides profit motive. We want to leave the world better than we found it."

TBR's Narcotta points to Apple's investment in developing sapphire glass as an example of its pursuing a new set of environmentally-friendly opportunities and putting itself at the front of markets that haven't been developed yet.

"They're very noble goals, but the message is something you have to take with a grain of salt," Narcotta continued. "It's been six months since Apple introduced any new products or services. The well isn't dry, but to stick with the analogy, neither have they added any water. There are a lot of question marks around Apple right now."

Narcotta added that he thinks Apple is a "phenomenally successful" company and will be for a long time. But it's a company starting a new chapter.

"This is Tim talking to anybody," said Narcotta. "And he's saying, 'Here's my business card, and it says CEO. Not just CEO because Steve isn't with us. But: CEO.'"


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