February 25, 2012, 6:59 AM — Apple has published an overview of its carbon footprint for 2011, breaking down how factors such as manufacturing, transportation, product use, recycling, and its facilities influence its effect on the environment.
The company estimates that it was responsible for 23.1 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions in the year 2011. According to Apple, 98% of those emissions are related to its products' life cycle, with just 2% chalked up to the company's facilities.
That's up significantly over the company's emissions in 2010, which measured just 14.8 million metric tons. To a certain extent, that's to be expected, as the record quarterly sales the company keeps racking up suggest that Apple is producing and shipping more products than ever. But Apple says the amount of its greenhouse gas emissions per dollar of revenue have actually decreased since 2008, to the tune of 15.4%.
Apple and oranges
Since it can be hard to gauge what numbers of that scale mean, I attempted to pull up the environmental reports from three of Apple's competitors: Samsung, Dell, and HP. It's difficult to make an apples-to-apples comparison among the three, however. Not only do their roles differ--for example, Samsung is a large consumer electronics business that not only produces PCs and smartphones, but also TVs, digital cameras, and home appliances--but the companies don't always report the exact same figures.
Of the three, to date only Dell has reported its fiscal year 2011 greenhouse gas emissions, which it totaled at 481,007 metric tons. The company also calculated its emissions at 7.14 metric tons per $1 million of revenue; Apple provides a similar figure of roughly .21 kg per dollar of revenue, which would come out to about 210 metric tons per $1 million of revenue.
That might seem like Apple is outpacing Dell enormously, but there's another catch. HP, Dell, and Samsung all report their greenhouse gas emissions according to the GHG Protocol established by the World Resources Institute, an environmental think tank, and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, a coalition of approximately 200 international companies that includes, among others, GM, DuPont, 3M, Coca-Cola, Sony, Oracle, BP, and Wal-Mart. (Samsung is a member of the WBCSD, but Dell, HP, and Apple are not.)