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How Google and Apple are Making a Positive Impact

Learn how two leading organizations, Google and Apple, simultaneously prioritize Profit, Planet, and People in their operations.
Fernanda Ferreira
October 27, 2023

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Have you ever wondered how much CO2e the top 5 big-tech companies – Amazon, Google, Apple, Meta, and Microsoft – churn out each year? A lot. In the past year alone, these companies emitted 125.9 million tonnes of CO2e between them - that is more than the entire country of Belgium.

These companies, however, are on a mission to change their ways, and it could not come quickly enough. The urgency stems from the mounting pressure they face from regulators, investors, customers, and other stakeholders to adapt to the changing environment.

Among their ranks, two names stand out, not only due to their financial dominance but also owing to their unwavering dedication to fostering a positive impact on the world: Apple and Google (specifically their holding company, Alphabet).

Both companies have demonstrated that it is possible for companies with substantial global influence to make a positive impact on the world, while still raking in that cash. The burning question is – how?

How can companies be profitable and make a positive impact?

How can two of the biggest organizations on the planet roll in massive profits and, at the same time, have a positive impact on the world? What concrete initiatives have they undertaken to make it happen?

Top global companies 1-10 published in Forbes 'The Global 2000' - measured using four metrics: sales, profit, assets and market value


Let's first take a look at Apple's sustainability efforts. They've been making progress by collaborating with over 320 suppliers who have committed to using renewable energy for Apple production - their efforts have resulted in more than 18 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions being avoided. Beyond this, they've diverted over 3 million tons of waste from landfills as a result of their zero waste program, and have conserved more than 31.2 million gallons of freshwater in 2023 alone. But that’s not all:

Apple has its sights set on achieving carbon neutrality by 2030. Their latest ESG report shows they've successfully avoided 31 million metric tonnes of emissions across all scopes and reduced their carbon footprint by over 55% compared to 2015. To slash carbon emissions even further, Apple is actively pushing for eco-friendly designs – take the shift to the 100% recycled aluminium Apple Mac Studio, for example. In fact, more than ⅕ of the materials used in Apple's products come from recycled sources. And by 2030, their big goal is to achieve carbon neutrality.

This clearly highlights Apple's ability to bring innovative products to consumers while also actively lessening their environmental impact. This combination of planet and profits is something we can all learn from.

Apple’s Historical and Future Emissions published in Apple’s Environmental Progress Report


Now, let's take a closer look at Google and what they have achieved. Back in August 2020, Alphabet, Google's parent company, issued the largest sustainability bond ever recorded, with the funds generated used to support various new and ongoing initiatives that are aligned with the Green Bond Principles, the Social Bond Principles, and the Sustainability Bond Guidelines. Remarkably, the entirety of the $5.75 billion net proceeds from this Sustainability Bond have been allocated to these efforts. Google has committed to various operational targets. These include: achieving net zero emissions across the entire value chain by 2030, improving ecosystem health in communities where they operate, and maximising the reuse of finite resources across operations.

Looking at Google's sustainability approach in more detail, it is centered around three core principles:

Empowering individuals to take climate action, working together with partners and customers, and operating their business sustainably.

Moreover, Google's been on a journey to make its data centers some of the most efficient in the world for over a decade, by optimizing the use of energy, water, and materials. Compared to 2017, Google delivers approximately three times as much computing power with the same amount of electrical power. Now, they're turning heads with new cooling technology that could dramatically cut down water use in their data centers. This is all part of their "climate-conscious" data center cooling initiative to reduce their impact on water in the communities in which they operate. In fact, 271 million gallons of water was replenished by the end of 2022 - an impressive figure, equal to more than 400 olympic sized swimming pools

Google and Apple Walk the Talk

These two tech giants aren't just talking: they're doing and showing big profits can go hand in hand with having a positive impact. And it's not just them – a study that looked at over 2000 ESG performance analyses found that almost half of the companies showed a connection between financial performance and ESG performance.

Profitability is not the only benefit for organizations implementing sustainability initiatives:

When consumers are asked if they care about buying sustainable products, time and time again, the answer is yes: in a 2020 McKinsey US consumer sentiment survey, more than 60% of respondents said they'd pay more for a product with sustainable packaging, for example. Sustainability-conscious consumers are loyal, with Capgemini reporting that 77% are more likely to buy from and remain loyal to socially responsible brands. Investors are also increasingly prioritizing sustainability, with 89% of investors including ESG issues in some form as part of their investment approach. There are an increasing number of international regulations organizations must comply with.

Shifting Priorities from Profit to Positive Impact

Gone are the days of putting profit before all else. Non-financial aspects are now crucial to a company's strategy, shaping long-term success, with nearly 90% of companies having or developing strategies to manage their environmental, social, and governance practices.

Apple and Google's sustainability achievements stem from genuine, transparent, and accountable initiatives - actions that steer clear of greenwashing pitfalls and pave the way for financial success.

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