Apple Called Out for ‘Scientifically Inaccurate’ Greenwashing

Amid announcing one of its biggest iPhone releases of the last few years, Apple dedicated a big part of last month’s Wonderlust product announcement to its supposedly sweeping environmental initiatives. The company even included a cringey featurette with actor Octavia Spencer talking down to CEO Tim Cook. Europe’s leading consumer group is calling a fair bit of bull on the company’s green initiatives, not the least of it because of Apple’s constant claims of aiming for “carbon neutrality.”

Several groups, including Europe’s leading consumer group collective The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC), took umbrage with Apple’s saying it was moving toward carbon neutrality, The Financial Times reported Monday. BEUC Director General Monique Goyens told FT that those claims “are scientifically inaccurate and mislead consumers.”

Two EU decision-making bodies, the European Parliament and Council, agreed shortly after Apple’s product event to ban marketing using greenwashing buzzwords like “environmentally friendly” and “climate neutral.” It also bans “claims based on emissions offsetting schemes that a product has neutral, reduced or positive impact on the environment.” The accord has not been set in stone, but it would put an end to this sort of messaging by 2026.

Apple called its new Series 9 Apple Watch its first real carbon-neutral product. Part of that was a move from leather products to the company’s own, recycled materials-based FineWoven textile, though a bigger part of Apple’s green claims was how it was having its suppliers and shipping companies move to renewable energy. Apple says it plans to be totally carbon neutral by the end of the decade.

Gizmodo reached out to Apple for comment, but we did not immediately hear back. The company told FT, “To achieve global climate goals, we need immediate action to drastically cut emissions paired with investments in conservation and carbon removal at scale.”

The BEUC congratulated the EU’s planned ban on greenwashing messaging back in September. In a statement, BEUC deputy director general Ursula Pachl said “Carbon neutral claims are greenwashing, plain and simple. It’s a smoke screen giving the impression companies are taking serious action on their climate impact. The truth is that these claims are scientifically incorrect and should never be used.”

Along with claims about its products being carbon neutral, Apple keeps talking up carbon capture by planting trees in countries like Paraguay and Brazil, though experts routinely say that planting trees won’t put an end to climate change. Apple told FT this is “nature based carbon removal,” though climate groups criticized the Paraguay project for creating forests that are mostly made up of eucalyptus trees that just get chopped down for timber within a decade. The attempt for true net-zero emissions is really a pipe dream, and routine reports continue to prove companies aren’t truly willing to fully reduce emissions as long as it cuts into profits.

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