“Apple has worked closely with AWS to support the development of content, tools and strategies that enable clusters of companies to undertake shared water activities as a hub.”
Q&A with Kathleen Shaver
24 March 2023
With a focus on water this week from World Water Day and the UN 2023 Water Conference, the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) took some time to catch up with Kathleen Shaver, Director of Environment and Supply Chain Innovation at Apple.
Apple’s longstanding investment and support of AWS has helped pave the way for collective action on shared water opportunities across the ICT sector. This week Kathleen joined our event at the UN to discuss new details and progress on the company’s strategy to improve water availability, quality and equity across its supply chain and into all the communities where they operate.
Can you share a little bit of background information on how Apple approaches water use in its supply chain?
Apple’s commitment to climate-smart water stewardship extends well beyond our own facilities and deep into the value chain, which accounts for about 99 percent of our water use. Over the past decade, we have worked with more than 230 supplier sites to save more than 63 billion gallons of water through innovative approaches, including reusing reclaimed water, upgrading equipment to improve efficiency, and deploying countercurrent rinse methods.
What is Apple’s five pillar approach to water?
Our forward-looking five pillar strategy charts a path for further conservation efforts:
Low Water Design, such as a pilot program that is successfully recycling 75% of water used in water-intensive metal finishing processes and exploring options to shift from wet to dry manufacturing practices and optimizing the length of rinse cycles to reduce water consumption.
Site Efficiency and Conservation. Our Clean Water Program is focused on conservation, water/wastewater management and the stormwater management. Apple is engaged with more than 230 supplier sites, prioritizing those with the largest impact and areas of water stress, achieving substantial progress: 13 billion gallons were saved in 2022, reaching average reuse rate of 42%.
Site Water Stewardship. 17 of our supplier sites are certified to the AWS Standard, including 15 at the platinum level. The company is also getting the AWS Standard in the hands of our suppliers and supporting the translation of key documents that support the certification process.
Replenishment and Nature-Based Solutions. For example, our collaboration with AWS has resulted in watershed assessments that identify key catchments and opportunities for enhancing water quality and water availability in each location, including through ecosystem restoration.
Leadership and Advocacy. Earlier in March, we announced a new effort to support improved water, sanitation, and hygiene outcomes in India in partnership with environmental NGO Frank Water. This effort entails the development of an innovative, scalable approach that strengthens local water management and decision making, and expands equitable access to water quality data.
It is exciting to see site water stewardship as one of your five pillars. Can you share more on how that is translating into action in your supply chain?
AWS has played an important role there. Already, we’ve brought a group of suppliers together with the team at AWS to learn about water stewardship and how water management can be addressed through a systems approach. Understanding that water stewardship becomes easier when companies work together, Apple has worked closely with AWS to support the development of content, tools and strategies that enable clusters of companies to undertake shared water activities as a hub. This includes the water catchment assessments I mentioned. These assessments will be shared with the suppliers and other participating companies that are co-located in the same vicinity — so that all companies can benefit to better manage these shared resources.
What water stewardship projects is Apple looking forward to the most in the coming year?
We are excited to continue our partnership with AWS and have plans to convene manufacturing partners working in the same water basins to build a collective “hub” approach to water stewardship. AWS will provide technical expertise to help further suppliers’ understanding of their water impacts and strengthen their collaboration with each other and their surrounding communities. We look forward to helping accelerate the impact of water stewardship on the ground in these key locations.