Amazon, Apple Go for the Photo Opp

Generally, you know a company is “serious” about a strategy when they march the chief executive officer out to be the mouthpiece or the face of it. Or at least that’s what the marketing gurus and guru-esses hope.

So, I was intrigued by two recent announcements by two of the biggest technology companies in the earth’s universe — Amazon and Apple — dropped some material into my email inbox in late October. (Actually, the press release involving Apple came from another company, but more on that in the moment.)

Amazon’s proclamation was along the lines of several it has issued over the past two years, trumpeting a contract to buy the power from yet another wind farm in Texas (its largest deal yet).  This is a seriously huge facility, more than 100 turbines, each of them more than 300 feet tall. The capacity is 253 megawatts of electricity, which means it can generate 1,000,000 megawatt-hours of power annually.

This is the 18th solar or wind so far made possible because Amazon stepped in to help finance the installation. What’s even more incredible is that the company has almost twice that many projects in its pipeline. So, you can hardly blame the company for releasing this video of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos “christening” one of the turbines. (I’m sure the Amazon board is shuddering.)

The second photo is less dramatic, but also far more unexpected: what the heck is Apple CEO Tim Cook doing in a Swedish forest, planting trees?

The Holmen Group produces more than 30 million trees annually to meet Sweden’s legislated requirements for replanting. (Copyright: Iggesgund)

It turns out that the company that publicized the visit, Iggesund Paperboard, is one of Apple’s biggest packaging suppliers — a company originally selected by the tech giant’s founder, Steve Jobs. The material is called Invercote. The parent company, Holmen, is listed on the United Nations Global Compact Index of the world’s most sustainable companies. The predecessor firm to Iggesund has actually been around since 1685.

Cook also tweeted about his experience:

Given Apple’s legacy of being relatively mum about pretty much everything until it is good and ready to talk, Cook’s willingness to give its supplier such a great photo opp is all the more notable.

But lo and behold, the company just released an updated statement about its packaging strategy in October, with heightened attention to the forests where it sources virgin fiber. Sweden isn’t the only place it’s watching: Apple is working with World Wildlife Fund to transition suppliers in China to more sustainable forestry practices. Is that the next photo opp?

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