Larry Selzer, The Conservation Fund’s president and CEO. The Conservation Fund protects forests through corporate partnerships and the facilitation of the sustainable use of paper products on a large scale. The goal of the partnership is to zero out Apple’s virgin paper footprint through conservation and responsible harvesting practices.
This partnership, though it has practical environmental applications, is far removed from Apple’s most useful resource: its loyal customers. Apple could bring its theoretical environmental statement to a more practical and widespread level by incentivizing the ecologically-responsible use of its products by its customer base. While Apple already encourages its users to dispose of their products responsibly, launching a widespread campaign to use technology sustainably would undoubtedly amplify the impact of its partnership with The Conservation Fund. By crafting a campaign that depends directly on the active participation of customers, Apple could increase people’s senses of personal involvement in the fight for sustainability.
Corporate partnerships like Apple’s with The Conservation Fund, while helpful, allow consumers to become complacent towards the environmental impacts of the products they consume. Such partnerships allow consumers to feel good about the diminished environmental impacts of the products they consume, without encouraging them to take steps to increase sustainability. Corporate partnerships model responsible behavior, but ultimately, consumers must bear the duty of responsible consumption. Consumers greatly outnumber producers, especially in Apple’s case, and their actions end up having greater impacts than corporate ones.
Encouraging sustainable use of products among consumers also makes good business sense. In forging an alliance for sustainability, companies put themselves and their customers on the same team, rather than in conflict. Uniting for some social cause revolutionizes the relationship between businesses and consumers. In striving towards a mutual goal, businesses and consumers are less sensitive to the tension between their conflicting demands for higher prices and higher quality products.
As corporate social activism becomes more prevalent, companies must consider that grand activist gestures are most effective and helpful when paired with campaigns that engage consumers in everyday life. The key to enacting social change, whether related to environmental conservation or not, is changing habits, which starts with consumers and their practices. Apple can take the sentiment of this partnership a step further by actively encouraging their customers to practice sustainable consumption of Apple products.