Lisa Jackson explains how Apple balances innovation with sustainability in new interview

In a new in-depth interview with The Independent, Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives, offers new detail on the company’s renewable energy and other environmental efforts. Jackson explains how Apple works to consider the environmental impact that new innovations might have, across the entire scope of the company.

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For the iPhone 11, Jackson explains that the materials inside of the Taptic Engine are what she’s most proud of. The component relies on magnets made of rare earth materials, and this year, those materials will be recycled.

Despite that improvement, however, Jackson says Apple still isn’t where it wants to be:

“We’re making progress. Sometimes you wish you could speed it all up,” she says. “We have 14 materials we’ve highlighted, and we don’t have equal progress on them. But some of that’s technology. Some of that’s scale. Some of that’s crazy things, like shipping regulations and how you can move materials around. So we have to work on all of those at the same time.”

As part of her efforts to have a team of people at Apple focused on the environment, Jackson reached out to people in various different positions and created a “virtual team.”

“We kept everyone where they were, and started to build a virtual team of people around the company who, in addition to everything else they do, would have a sensitivity and understanding of our goals around climate change and materials. Over time, that group has gotten bigger and further up the chain – we regularly now have discussions with designers very early in the process.”

That’s not to say that the entirety of the Apple design process hinges on recyclability and the environment. Instead, Apple simply tries “as much as possible to avoid problems before they become a real challenge.”

“I’m not going to tell you everyone at Apple is thinking about it all the time,” she says. “But we have enough people who think it’s really important to them to work for a company, and make a product, that they believe is being made in a way that’s super sensitive to the planet.”

Ultimately, Jackson believes that Apple’s efforts at recyclability and sustainability will “go on forever” as the company innovates and expands with new materials and technologies.

“To me, we are always going to try and go with the innovations, but we never want to hold back Apple innovations. We sort of, by definition, lag behind the innovations. If Apple is working on some brand new material, we’re going to have to figure out how to recycle that,” she says. “But we also work very closely to say: as you’re speccing a material, is there a way to spec recycled material?”

Read the full interview on The Independent for more of Jackson’s comments.

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