Apple in Environmental Push, Vows to Address Pollution in China

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Apple (AAPL) wants to do good, and in the process, burnish its image as a company that cares about the environment, especially in China.

The maker of the iPad, and most recently, the Apple Watch, said it will use renewable sources for a larger portion of its energy needs in China and will work with the World Wildlife Fund to help to protect up to 1 million acres of forests in the world's most populous country.

"Forests, like energy, can be renewable resources," Lisa Jackson, Apple's vice president of Environmental Initiatives, said in a statement. "We believe we can run on naturally renewable resources and ensure that we protect-and create-as much sustainable working forest as needed to produce the virgin paper in our product packaging. This is an important step toward that goal and our commitment to leave the world better than we found it."

The Cupertino, Calif.-based company has been busy working to decrease its environmental footprint, which not only helps lower carbon emissions while getting towards its goal of 100% renewable power for its entire worldwide operations (it's at 87% currently), a responsibility Apple accepts, CEO Tim Cook said.

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Apple has come under criticism in recent years for the impact that its factories have on the environment, especially in China. As of 2012, Foxconn, an Apple supplier, had more than 1 million workers on its payroll, making it the world's tenth largest employer.

The new agreement comes three weeks after the company announced a solar project in China that is expected to generate as much as 80 million kilowatt hours per year of clean energy to power the company's corporate offices and retail stores in the country.

Apple has 19 corporate offices and 22 retail stores in China and Hong Kong, employing 8,000 people. The world's largest technology firm is partnering with companies such as Leshan Electric Power, Sichuan Development Holding, Tianjin Tsinlien Investment Holding, Tianjin Zhonghuan Semiconductor, and SunPower (SPWR) to build two 20-megawatt solar farms.

"This won't happen overnight-in fact it will take years-but it's important work that has to happen, and Apple is in a unique position to take the initiative toward this ambitious goal," Cook said. "It is a responsibility we accept. We are excited to work with leaders in our supply chain who want to be on the cutting edge of China's green transformation."

These kinds of initiatives are important to furthering the company's environmental goals, but it's likely to also bolster its profits as energy costs are reduced.

With China being the world's largest timber importer, it's also intended to be good for attracting and appeasing consumers increasingly sensitive to the effect of technology production on air and drinking water, said WWF China's CEO Lo Sze Ping. "This collaboration between our two organizations will seek to reduce China's ecological footprint by helping produce more wood from responsibly managed forests within its own borders."

During the fiscal second quarter, Apple generated $16.82 billion in revenue in Greater China, up 71% year over year.

The company also recently announced a deal with First Solar (FSLR) in California, committing $848 million under a 25-year power purchase agreement. Apple is buying the power, while First Solar is actually constructing the solar farm. Jackson has previously said this could "potentially save hundreds of millions of dollars over the life of the deal."

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