Looking for leadership (from Apple?)

When it comes to sustainability, what does true leadership look like?

Our lunchtime debate this week came up with some big conclusions. When it comes to sustainability, what does true leadership look like?

There are certainly some great businesses out there doing excellent work to improve their sustainability. Does that truly make them sustainability champions, showing the way ahead to everyone else?

These are important questions we found ourselves discussing this week at ecosurety. We've started holding regular internal discussion-group sessions to try to be even better informed and to learn from one another. And this latest session generated some good insights.

The question of sustainability came up partly with reference to Apple Corp. It has made great strides with its own sustainability, when measured by certain criteria, but most felt that it should be doing more.

Moral leadership

Too harsh? Well, how is Apple falling short? While it might be growing its use of renewable energy and monitoring all sorts of other material impacts it is having on the planet through its activities, plenty of us felt it is still lacking in what you might call moral leadership. The idea is simple enough: Apple makes successful products, and is doing so more sustainably, but most felt it has the capability to move the dial in terms of its systems and processes far more quickly than it currently is. (Added to this, it’s sustainability video, Better, was felt by everyone to be a missed opportunity; it could and perhaps should have been far more inspirational.)

Conservatism and a protective mindset still reigns in Apple's world, and in that respect it's not showing leadership in sustainability.

Every iPhone is still put together to make the product hard to dismantle. Apple's hardware and ecosystems are sophisticated but they are a closed shop too. It hasn't adopted universal adapters and taken some other steps that would result in less waste.

Planned obsolescence

Apple is a powerful brand. People take notice of it and many follow its lead. So why isn't it trying to make reuse sexy? Why create products with planned obsolescence built into them, when its smart and creative design teams could be developing products to make reuse simple and quickly usher in a new era of modularity in electronics, where swapping out components to deliver an upgrade becomes a new norm even for non-techies? (In other words, nearly everyone.)

Is that expecting too much? Capitalism makes these steps hard to take, after all. If you've got a winning formula commercially, perhaps such radical agendas for change simply aren't realistic.

We are living through a dynamic era, however. If Apple won't go there, others will perhaps. Disruptive technologies appear all the time – it's not inconceivable that something will emerge that undermines market dominance, and it might be driven by a radical sustainability agenda that Apple so far hasn't yet been able to deliver, however far it has come.

All of that in a lunchtime chat over sandwiches between a few co-workers! Great stuff.

Steve Clark

Non-Executive Director

Steve established Ecosurety in 2003 in response to the lack of flexibility, innovation and customer-focus in the compliance scheme market. He took inspiration from the mobile phone market, which continues to provide a diverse range of pick-and-mix options for the customer, and built the original business on a commitment to provide flexible, friendly and tailored support for all clients.

He is passionate about bringing the latest business concepts from other markets and industries and applying them to the environmental sector for the benefit of clients.

Written by Steve Clark Published 12/12/2014 Topics Sustainability

Useful links

Record-breaking volume of aluminium recycled in 2023

In 2023, 162,357 tonnes of aluminium packaging were recycled in the UK (68%), including more than four in five beverage cans (81%).


European Parliament introduce regulations to improve packaging sustainability

On 24 April, the EU’s Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR) was approved, introducing new measures to make packaging more sustainable and reduce packaging waste within the EU. 


Provisional agreement reached on the EU’s Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation

A provisional agreement has been reached on the EU’s Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR).  


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