Apple Inc., considered by some to have the world's top supply chain, is also titleholder of a somewhat more dubious distinction that of the world's dirtiest high-tech company. Earlier this year, Apple was cited by Greenpeace in a lengthy report that spells out the iPad-maker's various environmental infractions, most notably its decision to house its data center in rural North Carolina, said to be "one of the dirtiest generation mixes in the U.S."
Apple has also taken some heat for its Chinese suppliers, particularly Foxconn, where allegedly sweatshop conditions have led to multiple suicides and fatal explosions over the past couple years. Recently, in fact, as reported earlier this month on this website, China's Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs
leveled the charge that some of Apple's Chinese suppliers have dumped toxic wastewater from their plants into nearby streams. Without directly denying the allegations, Apple has said that it would look into it.
So it's perhaps not surprising that Apple, still the darling of the global high-tech set, heads one of the current rankings of the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP). No, Apple didn't make the top of the list of best-performing companies, or another list for carbon performance leadership; instead, you'll find Apple ranked as the largest global 500 information technology company that declined to participate in the CDP's report.
Apple isn't the only prominent U.S. company to opt out of participating in the CDP. Internet pioneer Amazon.com was similarly a no-show when it came to reporting its carbon reduction strategies. And while Warren Buffett has been talking up a blue streak lately about his "Buffett rule" idea on taxation, he has been remarkably tight-lipped about Berkshire Hathaway's green initiatives.
So who's doing the best job at greening their supply chains, at least according to the CDP? The following companies all received a 99 (the highest score) for their carbon disclosure score: Philips Electronics (Netherlands), Bayer (Germany), UPS (United States) and Deutsche Post (Germany). Four automakers scored in the 90s, but none were U.S. companies: BMW, Honda, Fiat and Volkswagen. Even three oil companies finished with a score in the 90s: Suncor Energy, Hess and Royal Dutch Shell.
Although Paul Simpson, CEO of the Carbon Disclosure Project, notes, "Companies yet to take action on climate change will have to work hard to remain competitive as we head towards an increasingly resourced constrained, low carbon economy," a company's reticence to report its actions doesn't necessarily mean the marketplace will react negatively.
Case in point: Apple's stock recently hit $411.50, its highest point ever, and the company's market cap is currently higher than anybody else, even ExxonMobil, which by some reckoning makes Apple the most valuable company in America. Once upon a time, there was a popular mythology surrounding Apple that said that its enthusiasts and nobody comes any harder core than an Apple enthusiast were the most socially conscious group of people you'd ever find. Whether or not that was ever really true, it doesn't seem to be the case any more.