What’s next, a FASB for carbon accounting? Should companies be required to report carbon emissions and if so, who is going to audit these statements? After all, data is only as good as the substantive tests that prove its accuracy.
Apple has never been at the top of environmentalists’ list as a green company but for the first time it is now publishing corporate carbon data on its website for all to see.
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Apple’s real goal is to change the terms of the debate. Company executives say that most existing green rankings are flawed in several respects. They count the promises companies make about green plans rather than actual achievements. And most focus on the environmental impact of a company’s operations, but exclude that of its products.
Apple argues that broader, more comprehensive figures for carbon emissions should be used–for everything from materials mined for its products to the electricity used to power them–and it’s offering up its own data to make the case. Executives say that consumers’ use of Apple products accounts for 53% of the company’s total 10.2 million tons of carbon emissions annually. That’s more than the 38% that occurs as the products are manufactured in Asia or the 3% that comes from Apple’s own operations. “A lot of companies publish how green their building is, but it doesn’t matter if you’re shipping millions of power-hungry products with toxic chemicals in them,” says CEO Steve Jobs in an interview. “It’s like asking a cigarette company how green their office is.”
Again, I’m skeptical of any self-reported data that doesn’t go through the usual channels like financial statements would. Imagine if a company like Apple was also allowed to slap together some cash flows without the little auditors crawling all over the numbers, “Hey investors! Check us out, we made $52 bazillion this quarter in iPhone sales alone!” Yeah, ok.
I’m not even sure what this carbon argument is all about so I’ll just let this one go. Good job, Apple. I think.