Apple is well-known for its creative products and sleek design, but the computer behemoth is also concerned with environmental sustainability. One of its lofty targets is to use 100% recycled cobalt in its battery designs by 2025.
Cobalt is an important component of lithium-ion batteries, which power products like iPhones, iPads, MacBooks, and AirPods. However, cobalt mining has been related to human rights violations, environmental degradation, and geopolitical tensions in countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which supplies the majority of the world’s cobalt.
To address these concerns, Apple has been investing in measures to safely procure cobalt and reduce its reliance on mined resources. Apple was the first firm to publish a list of cobalt smelters and refiners that adhere to its Supplier Code of Conduct in 2017. In 2019, Apple joined the Responsible Cobalt Initiative, a multi-stakeholder organisation aimed at improving the conditions of artisanal and small-scale miners in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Apple has also been working on ways to reuse cobalt from its own gadgets in new goods. Apple launched Liam in 2016, a robot capable of disassembling iPhones and recovering components such as cobalt, lithium, gold, and copper. Apple replaced Liam in 2018 with Daisy, a more advanced robot capable of processing up to 200 iPhones per hour. Apple revealed in 2020 that it has retrieved cobalt from over a million iPhones through its recycling program.
Apple aspires to build a circular economy, in which materials are reused and waste is minimised, by employing recycled cobalt in its batteries. This would not only cut Apple’s environmental impact, but also its expenses and resilience to supply chain interruptions. BloombergNEF estimates that recycled cobalt could represent 18% of world cobalt supply by 2030, up from 1% in 2019.
Apple’s goal of using 100% recycled cobalt in its batteries by 2025 is part of the company’s larger vision of becoming carbon neutral by 2030. This means that, from the materials used to the energy spent, every Apple product sold will have a net zero climate effect. Apple has already achieved carbon neutrality for its worldwide corporate operations and is collaborating with suppliers and partners to achieve the same for its products.
Apple’s environmental efforts have received attention and acclaim from a variety of organisations and groups. In 2021, Apple placed top in Greenpeace’s Guide to Greener Electronics, which assesses major tech companies’ environmental performance. CDP, a non-profit that studies corporate environmental disclosure and action, also gave Apple an A+ rating.
Apple, as one of the world’s most significant and important companies, has the potential to inspire and persuade others to pursue sustainability in the same way. Apple is proving its commitment to innovation and responsibility for the earth and its people by using 100% recycled cobalt in its batteries by 2025.