How Green Is Apple?

Yesterday the Telegraph published some pretty pictures of the top brands in Britain, as chosen by the Thought Leadership Index – the annual TLG/Populus poll of top opinion formers.  In the top five you’ll find Google, the Co-Op, Innocent Smoothies, Marks & Spencer and, at number one, Apple.

At Positive Luxury we value brands slightly differently. Tesco, for instance, deserves a higher place than 24 based on its sterling work. As for Apple – well, we don’t quite agree the company is number one. We give our overall verdict on the top five below.


You’d expect great things from a stylish Californian baby boomer, and Apple does have a clear and open Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policy across the supply chain, from labour and human rights to environmental impact. However there’s been a lot of concern over a recent spate of suicides in Chinese factories making Apple products and some NGOs are worried that the coltan used in iPhones comes from African warzones and the trade supports violent warlords. Apple insists it monitors its supply chains but it’s not as open as it could be to external scrutiny. We’re keeping a wary eye…

Marks and Spencer

The Marks and Spencer Environmental Code of Practise (ECOP) is still seen as a landmark document on the British high street. As posters at the till in their food hall make clear, their Plan A project pledges improve across almost every area of their business – from waste, raw materials, fair partners, health and climate change to salt in their own label food. M&S is aiming to be the world’s most sustainable retailer. Early sceptics – like Prof Frank Figge at Belfast Uni – have become more muted over the last year. A rising star.


Keeping everything from their ingredients to their production about sustainability isn’t enough for Innocent. The Innocent Foundation gives grants to encourage sustainable farming from Madagascar to Stevenage and most of the jokes on the bottle labels are funny – at least the first time you read them…. Coca Cola has had a 58% stake since 2010, and Coke is working with Greenpeace to change the way it refrigerates its drinks. Oddly, in 2009, can of Coke had a lower carbon footprint than an Innocent bottle. Who’d have thought?

The Cooperative Group

Since the downturn and fury at bankers bonuses, being mutual – like the Co-op – is the new black. The Cooperative group’s Ethics in Action programme has an extensive commitment to global change including tackling global poverty, preventing environmental damage and supporting youth development initiatives. There are the usual supply chain issues – most of the company’s emissions come from suppliers – but it’s an A+ for effort.


Google Green is committed to reducing the company’s footprint by promoting renewable energy, ‘greening’ their buildings and even introducing a shuttle bus scheme to minimise emissions on commuting. They’ve been financing cleaner energy sources and funded solar power plants in China. They’ve got a way to go, but – despite keeping pretty quiet about it- Google has been working towards a sustainable corporate vision from the get go.

Caroline Freestone

Caroline is an English graduate from Bristol University, with experience in fashion and beauty journalism for a number of on and offline publications. With previous work experience in events and PR she is currently the Web & Social Media Editor for Positive Luxury.

  • Diana

    I read this article this morning and I feel compeled to comment on it… I dont understand how apple can be on the top of the league when their social and environmental practises are less than desirable… apple keeps putting an incredible pressure on their supplier chain to manufacture their products in China, faster and cheaper but that is only half of the problem. The other half is that for the circuit boards of the iphones, apple uses a lot of minerals including cassiterite, wolfarmite, coltan and also gold which are originated from western Africa,
    In recent decades, nearly 7 million people in western Africa were killed by the conflicts indirectly supported by the revenue created by the mining industry, especially the Democratic Republic of Congo where a lot of coltan mines located. How could it be that a company that is making an average of $250 profit margin per phone cant invest in straightening their supply chain?

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  • SteveJobsShame

    Agree. Doesn’t say much for the butterfly mark if Apple can get it just for being big and trendy. Are you going to revoke it? Surely there are plenty more original ideas of brands we can love rather than Apple. Is that what this site is for or are you planning to start selling iPhones?

  • Mmmm… not sure about Apple qualifying for a Butterfly Mark?

    My thoughts tend to wasted opportunity, i.e. what Apple could do to make the world a better place if it REALLY tried. iSustainability please!

    Considering their brand strength and reach they could easily provide an improved platform to educate and steer their audience that could add even greater value, more like the M&S ethos.