Apple’s Clean Energy Supply Chain

August 3, 2018
Apple’s Clean Energy Supply Chain

Apple has already announced that its entire global operation, from corporate buildings to retail stores, are now powered totally by renewable energy sources. This year, Apple is looking to bring the supply chain to the same renewable energy standard, by investing in clean energy projects in China.


Video spotlight: Apple announced an even larger investment ($850M) in solar in February 2015


This post is based on the Apple Insider article, Apple launches $300M fund to power Chinese supply chain with clean energy, by Mikey Campbell, July 12, 2018, and the YouTube video from Bloomberg, Apple taps First Solar for renewable energy in $850M deal, February 13, 2015. Image sources: Shutterstock / Ververidis Vasilis and Shutterstock / Lightspring.

Discussion Questions:

1. Beyond the ability to work with Apple, what are suppliers’ incentives to use renewable energy?

Guidance:  Students should be able to list the advantages in keeping costs down by using renewable sources such as wind and solar power.  This is a straightforward discussion.  The next question should be:  What are the requirements (technology and staff) to maintain a renewable energy source?  Would outsourcing to a wind or solar farm be worthwhile?

2. How would global climate change impact the location of suppliers?

Guidance: Students should consider that wind and solar patterns may be altered in the coming decades.  Investment in sustainable energy platforms should consider the long term viability when considering climate change.  What is the capacity strategy to be considered when investing in sustainable energy?

3. Apple plans to invest $300 million to fund multiple projects for renewable energy. The goal is for Apple’s suppliers to be at 100% renewable energy within four years. How should Apple try to manage this large portfolio of projects in achieve this goal within budget?

Guidance: Students should review project management planning and control tools.  How difficult is just one of these major projects to accomplish on time and within budget? Advance the discussion by asking what issues might come up that will derail the project plan.  Examples might be regulations in host nations, weather, trade war implications, etc.  Bring the discussion to a close by asking the students to brainstorm on management structures that may allow project resources to flow between various projects so that the critical path at all projects is maintained.  This may lead to a discussion of matrix structures and possibly other creative ideas to address this discussion question.

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