As global awareness of and concern over climate change increases, consumers are increasingly seeking out companies that share these green sentiments. Firms which style themselves as environmentally friendly are benefiting from improved brand perception and increased sales due to the rise of conscientious consumer habits. Apple is seeking to capitalize on this trend by announcing green investments in the U.S. and China, notably the purchase of one million acres of Chinese forest.
One may wonder why Apple is seeking to boost its green credentials, as many consider the company a leader among environmentally sensitive businesses. Interestingly, despite being ranked Nr. 22 on Fortune’s 50 Best Global Green Brands, Apple suffered from a negative performance / perception gap. In other words consumers assumed Apple was far more green than it actually was, a disconnect that worries Apple leadership, prompting the latest series of green efforts.
So far this year, Apple has announced that it is investing in 80MW of solar power generation in China, as well as small hydro-electric dams in Oregon. Furthermore, Apple has already purchased 26,000 acres of forest in Maine, in an effort to promote conservation. The aforementioned million acre purchase in China, is a multi-year effort in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to bolster environmentalism in China. Moreover, through this deal Apple is seeking to eliminate its fibre consumption from virgin forest sources.
It is interesting to note that this project is being undertaken in China, despite Apple being an American company, with North America continuing to be its largest market. Certainly, Apple will receive praise from green consumers in North America for its efforts in China, but this is not Apple’s main motivation.
Currently, almost all of Apple’s products are produced in China, with the country also constituting the largest Iphone market in the world. Given this large consumer base, Apple is hedging on situating itself as a green company benefiting China. This image has huge potential, as the environment is increasingly a major concern for China growing middle-class.
Unlike their American or European counter-parts, Chinese consumers have seen the environmental cost of the digital revolution first-hand. Chinese consumers directly pay the price for the global appetite for electronics, with Chinese air, soil, and water pollution skyrocketing in the last fifteen years. Consequently, if Apple can demonstrate that it is working to counter this trend, it stands to gain a moral high-ground in the minds of Chinese consumers, who already seek out Western brands over cheaper, but potentially dangerous domestic alternatives.
Pollution is also one of the major instigators of internal turmoil in China, prompting thousands of demonstrations every year. If Apple styles itself as a green champion, it not only wins over the world’s largest consumer pool, but also the Chinese government. Green ventures in China by Apple, boost the company’s status in the minds of Beijing, as it now contributes to internal stability by placating both consumer wants and ecological concerns.