A new video ad touting Apple’s sustainability progress on the company’s website is more of a short film than a traditional advertisement. The ad feels more like a scene from The Good Place than sustainability marketing. The premise is simple: Mother Nature, played by Olivia Spencer, comes to visit for an update on Apple’s sustainability progress. She is overtly skeptical and sarcastic. One particularly entertaining line regards timing of packaging reduction efforts. Mother Nature interrupts the employee speaking: “Let me guess, fifty years from now when someone else is left holding the bag?” CEO Tim Cook himself promises that the company will meet its sustainability goals by 2030. Ultimately, Mother Nature leaves, impressed with the company’s work.
My first thoughts on the ad is that the FTC could have a field day with this thing. I counted only three claims regarding what the company plans to do, and twelve claims regarding what the company has already achieved and continues to do. This is significant because it’s harder to get into trouble with the FTC for forward-looking aspirational statements but easy to get fined for inaccurate or false historical ones. There are also very few caveats or qualifying statements in the video.
One statement that stuck out to me: “Every Apple office, store, and data center runs on clean electricity, thanks to you and your powerful wind and sun.”
While FTC’s Green Guides don’t specifically mention “clean” energy claims, they do cover “renewable energy” claims. To comply with the guides, Apple’s statement would have to mean that each Apple office, store and data center is powered 100% by either wind or solar energy, or that the company has matched other forms of energy with renewable energy certificates generated by wind and solar energy. Whether or not all of Apple’s claims hold water remains to be seen, but given the nature of the ad (no pun intended), it could be rather embarrassing if they don’t. It might also result in enforcement action by the FTC or the California Attorney General (see this post about Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) – an energy company in California – settling with the California AG over energy greenwashing allegations).
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Photo credit: misu – stock.adobe.com