Solar panels stretch into the distance as the sunset sets on the horizon.
Photo: Apple

Apple is cleaning up its most challenging carbon emissions

Protocol Climate

Happy Thursday from your Protocol Climate team. Unless you’re in Guam, in which case, happy Friday. Time, it’s all relative. Wherever and whenever you are, we’re happy you’re here now. Today, we’re doing a Big Tech clean energy two-for-one: Both Apple and Intel have announcements about cleaning up their carbon emissions. They have us catching a faint whiff of Earth Day, which is just around the corner.

Apple is here to help you

You got your iPhones. Your MacBooks. Your Apple Watches. Apple wants to be your one-stop shop for consumer tech. On Thursday, it announced it's taking some big steps to address some of the emissions associated with making and using those products by investing in a solar farm going up in Texas and cleaning up its supply chain.

Apple is tackling part of its Scope 3 emissions. The biggest challenge for nearly any company is addressing carbon pollution from the manufacturing and use of its products. And Apple has a lot of products in circulation.

  • The company has a mind-bending 1.8 billion devices currently in service around the world. If they were evenly distributed (spoiler: they’re not), roughly a quarter of the world’s population would own an Apple device.
  • For those Apple devices to be useful, they need to be charged. I mean, duh.
  • By the company’s own carbon accounting, all that charging is responsible for nearly 22% of Apple's carbon footprint.
  • Manufacturing all those devices is an even bigger chunk of emissions, accounting for more than 70% of its 22.6 million ton carbon footprint, according to its most recent environmental progress report.

So, what’s a major multinational corporation to do? Invest in solar and twist some arms, apparently. On Thursday, the company made some major announcements about clean energy.

  • On the twisting-arm front, Apple announced it now has more than 200 suppliers committed to using clean energy. That includes 10 gigawatts that are already operational.
  • Now, I do not know if Apple twisted arms or politely asked manufacturers to go clean energy or hit the road. But whatever the method, a company as big as Apple has some serious weight to throw around.
  • On the investment front, Apple has bought into a solar farm going up in Brown County, Texas. The farm will provide 300 megawatts of carbon-free electricity once completed later this year.
  • While the electrons won’t flow from there straight to your iPhone (unless you’re located on that part of the Texas grid, in which case, congrats!), it’s a nod to the fact that companies have a responsibility that extends well beyond their office walls.

All this is great news — and more needs to happen. I’m as sick of writing that sentiment as you are of reading it. But we’re here to talk about the unvarnished climate truth, and the reality is no company can ever do enough.

  • Apple has set a goal of completely decarbonizing its supply chain by 2030, and the new clean energy announcement gets it closer.
  • The company also wants to make all its products carbon neutral by 2030. The investment in the Texas solar farm is another great step, though it’s still a small chunk of what’s needed to account for emissions from so many devices in use. (Speaking of, I need to plug in my MacBook soon!)
  • With more than 22 million metric tons of carbon pollution on its ledger, Apple still has a ways to go to get there. Luckily, it also has a few more years to do it.
  • But it can’t all be on Apple. No single company — even the most valuable company on Earth — can solve climate change alone.
  • I am once again going to tap the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change sign and note the world needs to increase how much it spends on renewables each year by threefold to sixfold every single year this decade.
  • And to make that happen and ensure renewables are deployed at the scale needed, governments are going to have to get involved, too.
— Brian Kahn (email | twitter)

Intel’s net zero ambitions, and lack thereof

Chip giant Intel is the latest tech company to throw its hat in the net zero ring. On Wednesday, it committed to bringing its greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2040. However, the plan comes with some major caveats. Were you looking for a chance to put what you learned from our very first newsletter — a how-to on analyzing climate pledges — to work? Step right up.

The plan focuses on Intel's operations. The company committed to zeroing out its Scope 1 (largely raw materials) and Scope 2 (largely manufacturing) emissions.

  • Intel uses chemicals in its manufacturing process that are quite damaging to the climate, so this is certainly a win.
  • While Intel didn’t quantify how much of these cuts will involve relying on carbon offsets, it said in a press release that “it will use credible carbon offsets to achieve its goal only if other options are exhausted.”
  • That's good, given that a credible climate plan will only rely on offsets for the hardest-to-reduce emissions — but the proof will be in the pudding.

Intel has committed to interim targets, another must for credibility. By 2030, the semiconductor designer and manufacturer’s plans include using exclusively renewables for electricity across its operations and investing roughly $300 million in energy conservation.

  • The company said a portion of these efficiency gains and emissions reductions will come from changing the chemicals Intel uses for chipmaking. It plans to launch a research and development initiative, Intel said, “to identify greener chemicals with lower global warming potential and to develop new abatement equipment” by 2030.
  • At present, the chemicals that are integral to Intel’s process include perfluorocarbons and other gasses that warm the planet thousands of times more than carbon dioxide.
  • “We need to look fundamentally at the chemistry and if we can come up with completely new chemistries that have zero global-warming potential,” Intel Chief Sustainability Officer Todd Brady told the Wall Street Journal. “It will be a big, big change.”

But the plan currently leaves out Scope 3 emissions. Those emissions are tied to the distribution and use of its products.

  • In case you've already forgotten what you read in the first part of this newsletter, let me remind you that Scope 3 emissions usually make up the bulk of a company’s emissions. That makes getting a grip on them extremely important.
  • The plan does include a hand-wave at them, noting the company reports “the additional energy used over the product's lifetime” and will work to increase energy efficiency and reduce emissions.
  • Without a hard and fast goal, though, that amounts to little more than a pinky swear at this point — and we're going to need a little more than that.

As one of the largest manufacturers of the world’s most advanced chips, Intel is in a fairly unique position. Because of its size, the decision to reach net zero emissions by 2040 could have ripple effects across suppliers and the rest of the industry. I suspect other companies throughout the sector will be keeping a close eye on its successes — or, heaven forbid, failures — as a guide to taking similar steps

Lisa Martine Jenkins (email | twitter)


"To win more revenue for your sales teams, start with the customer. Understand what your customers need, and make sure that those needs are aligned to clearly defined internal success criteria. Build trust across the teams that what you sold the customer is what is being delivered." - Pilar Schenk, COO at Cisco Collaboration

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Make it rain

Enerkem, a Montreal-based developer of renewable fuels and chemicals from waste, raised $255 million in new equity and convertible debt funding. Repsol led with $75 million in equity and $95 million in convertible debt, and was joined by Suncor Energy, Monarch Alternative Capital and Avenue Capital Group.

Emerald Technology Ventures wants to invest in sustainable packaging, and it’s launching a new fund with a target of more than $200 million to do so.

Choco, a German startup trying to help end food waste, raised $111 million in series B2 funding. That makes it a unicorn.

Wireframe Ventures has raised another $77 million for pre-seed and seed funding for climate and health startups.

Invert, a carbon credit firm, and Ripple have inked a deal to purchase $30 million in carbon dioxide removal services from CarbonCure, a startup that makes carbon-sequestering cement.

The solar drone inspection provider Raptor Maps (has there ever been a more edgy combination of words?) raised $22 million in series B funding, which was led by MacKinnon, Bennett & Co.

Lisa Martine Jenkins and Brian Kahn

On the calendar

How is tech setting and measuring its climate goals?

Net zero. Carbon offsets. Scope 3 emissions. These are just some of the terms you’ll find in Big Tech’s climate plans. Understanding what they actually mean is vital to ensuring the industry is meeting its goals — and understanding whether those goals are the right ones. We’ll talk with some of the people responsible for setting those goals and experts who are monitoring them to find out what tech companies are really doing. RSVP here.

Hot links

Keep your dirty bitcoin out of Wikipedia’s coffers. Editors are asking the Wikimedia Foundation to stop accepting bitcoin donations because of crypto mining's climate impact.

Yelp offers eco-help. Hate plastic? Love EV charging? Now Yelp will let you find cafes, restaurants and other businesses offering a suite of sustainable options.

Supercharging peak hours just got a little longer. California Tesla drivers will have to pay a premium to charge their car at the company’s Supercharger stations from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., a two-hour increase.

Wind turbines are getting supersized. Multiple companies are racing to develop huge turbines.

In news that is somehow both alarming and encouraging, Ukraine averted a major Russian cyberattack that officials say could have compromised 2 million people’s power.

Climate change is wreaking havoc on the most unglamorous of technologies. Septic tank failures are on the rise as waters rise and rains intensify.

Lisa Martine Jenkins and Brian Kahn


"Trying to make every deal as big as possible often adds complexity and extends sales cycles. To accelerate growth, sellers should focus on landing faster, and then expanding, and expanding again. Getting customers into your solution sooner helps you solve their initial problems, then later, you can grow together." - Michael Megerian, Chief Revenue Officer at Yello

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Thanks for reading! As ever, you can send any and all feedback to See you next week — have a great weekend.

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