buying a new laptop? No, not through your wallet, silly, but your conscience! Well, thanks to Apple’s new sustainability PR video (starring none other than Octavia Spencer herself), you can! In this five-minute advertisement (let’s call it what it is), Apple executives — including the one and only Tim Cook — nervously gather around a conference room table while awaiting the arrival of their esteemed guest Mother Nature. Octavia Butler, as Mother Nature, wastes no time and starts grilling the Apple executives about the status of their sustainability report, throwing in some witty jokes about it being her third corporate visit of the day and her readiness for disappointment.
Apple is using its sustainability efforts as a marketing tool, highlighting its achievements in eliminating plastic from packaging, using recycled materials, and powering its stores with clean energy.
However, with every pointed question Octavia throws their way, an Apple employee is armed with an answer. Through this back-and-forth, Apple highlights its most impressive efforts: eliminating plastic from all packaging, crafting laptops from recycled aluminum, and powering all stores and office buildings with clean energy. The video concludes as Octavia makes her dramatic exit, the conference table exhales a sigh of relief, having successfully navigated a stressful encounter with Mother Nature.
While Apple’s sustainability efforts are commendable, there are concerns about the company’s transparency and the impact of its business model on overconsumption.
Despite my general criticism of corporate promotional material, I must acknowledge Apple’s achievements and efforts. Instead of just commencing with a typical product launch, they are taking significant steps to use sustainability as a differentiator and a new standard. They are striving to effect change, sharing their progress and opening themselves up to criticism and commentary, much like what I’m doing right now. Bottom line, this is far better than what most businesses are doing today.
Apple’s video may create a facade of infallibility, as it presents its own criticism and immediately rebuts it. There is a need for more open-door conversations with stakeholders regarding Apple’s supply chain and sustainability efforts.
Okay, enough praise. My primary concern with the video is that Apple is creating its own criticism and rebutting it right then and there, alluding to a facade of infallibility. When you create a product whose supply chain spans continents, these types of conversations need to be had with not only their shareholders but also their stakeholders. It didn’t seem like there was much of an open-door conversation within that boardroom.
Apple’s business model, which relies on consumerism and overconsumption, contradicts its sustainability efforts. The company must extend the life cycle of its products and discourage consumption to truly be sustainable.
Additionally, It’s really hard to preach sustainability when your business model thrives on a cycle of consumerism and overconsumption. Every fall, Apple releases shiny new products, expecting you to buy them — even when your old phone probably works just fine. To truly be sustainable, they must extend the life cycle of their product and discourage consumption. Also, it’s worth mentioning that Apple recently faced a lawsuit in which they were found guilty of intentionally slowing down their products as a strategy to encourage consumers to replace their devices sooner than necessary. Octavia should have asked them about that.
Apple could consider adopting a product-as-a-service model to encourage longer use of its devices and reduce waste. This alternative business model would offer consumers the option to subscribe to phone usage instead of buying a new phone every year.
An alternative business model that Apple could consider is adopting a product-as-a-service model. Instead of the traditional practice of buying a new phone every year, customers could opt for a “subscription” for phone usage. While new phones would still be available for outright purchase, this model would offer consumers the option to…