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Apple linked to anti-climate policy lobbying groups

The iPhone maker wants to lead the way on climate change, but funds groups that oppose green policies.

By Afiq Fitri

Tech giant Apple has been criticised for its association with lobbying groups that are “negatively influential” on climate policy, despite its stated aim to be a leader on green issues. According to the Tech Transparency Project (TTP), Apple is currently a member of a range of industry associations that appear to oppose reducing greenhouse gas emissions and ‘right-to-repair’ legislation.

Researchers say Apple’s links to anti-climate industry bodies are at odds with its ambitions to take the lead against climate change. (Photo: HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP via Getty Images)

Data from the TTP reveals how the number of lobbying groups funded by companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon has increased since 2015. This week, the campaign group added Apple to its tracker, and though the company backs fewer lobbyists than its Big Tech rivals, the groups it does support appear to be at odds with the company’s stated position on environmental issues.

Apple aims to become carbon neutral by 2030. “Every company should be a part of the fight against climate change,” CEO Tim Cook said in a statement last October. "We must act quickly to invest in a greener and more equitable future.”

But according to the company’s mandatory lobbying disclosures to the EU, Apple is a member of BusinessEurope, a Brussels-headquartered lobby group. TTP argues that while BusinessEurope’s public positions appear to be pro-environment, the group has “consistently acted to slow regulation and legislation” aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. 

BusinessEurope was also identified by think tank InfluenceMap as one of the top five “most negatively influential” industry lobby groups on Paris-aligned climate policy, which supports the Paris Agreement's long-term mitigation goal of limiting global warming to well below 2°C.

And according to InfluenceMap’s findings, BusinessEurope, together with other industry associations have lobbied to water down the EU’s reform plans on the climate, specifically on the bloc’s approach to carbon emissions.

"Many leading global companies, including Apple, now have ambitious climate strategies,” said Dylan Tanner, executive director of InfluenceMap. "However, there remains a disconnect between these companies and the powerful industry groups they are members of

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“Industry groups such as BusinessEurope continue to pose a significant blockage for global climate action, and yet their member companies remain largely silent about this growing gap.” He added that this disconnect is a “pervasive problem” that has long held back progressive climate policy and that green investors are now keenly aware of associations with such groups.

According to corporate spending data, Apple spent $13m on lobbying policymakers in the US and in Europe last year. This amount was half the amount spent by Facebook, but not significantly less than Google’s funding in 2021. Tech Monitor has previously reported on the sheer scale of Big Tech’s lobbying efforts in the US and elsewhere. 

Apple lobbying opposes 'right to repair'

Meanwhile, the TTP’s research also found that Apple is currently a member of 11 other industry groups opposed to ‘right-to-repair’ policies.

The right-to-repair movement has long argued for the longer use of electronic products to generally reduce the industry’s use of raw materials to build and sell new products. Last year, Apple’s co-founder Steve Wozniak threw his support behind the movement, saying that advocates for right-to-repair are “doing the right thing”.

In November 2021, Apple ditched its long-held stance against the right-to-repair by announcing a self service repair policy that provides its customers with hardware to repair their own devices. However, a New York Times journalist described his experience with the self service repair initiative as a “disaster” as well as how a technician he hired to help him said that Apple was “setting up the customer to fail”.

The environmental benefits of repairing electronic products instead of discarding them after a short period of use are clear. Researchers at the Oeko-Institut in Germany found that using a smartphone for seven years would save approximately 100kg of greenhouse gases, compared with using it for just two and a half years. 

And according to the United Nation’s Global E-waste Monitor, a record 53.6 million metric tonnes (Mt) of e-waste was generated globally in 2019, and the total amount of e-waste produced is projected to hit 74 Mt by 2030. Limited options for repair, coupled with higher consumption rates and short life cycles means that e-waste is the world’s fastest-growing domestic waste stream. 

Despite this, four of the industry groups of which Apple is a member provided testimony arguing against a ‘right-to-repair’ bill in Washington, according to TTP’s research. “That raises the question of whether Apple is still trying to kill or soften right-to-repair legislation through its trade groups,” said the report's authors. 

These lobbying efforts appear to be paying off. Yesterday, it was revealed that right-to-repair legislation in California, that would have required companies including Apple to provide documentation and tools to product owners and repair shops, has been abandoned. A report suggested that intense lobbying by tech companies might have played a part in scrapping the proposed laws. 

Tech Monitor has approached Apple for comment on the report.

Read more: 50% of UK tech leaders believe too much IT equipment is wasted

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