iPhone Sustainability Score Example

This is the accompanying use case for the "Sustainability Score." Adapted from the original Google Doc below.


This use case is still a work in progress and will need to be updated as the final framework for the Sustainability Score is improved. Feedback from this document may also help improve that final framework. Please contribute, comment, or brainstorm ideas for this document!


This document is intended to demonstrate how the framework of this “Sustainability Score” can be applied to a single product - in this case, the iPhone.


Apple is valued at over 900 billion USD, one of the most valuable companies in the world.[1] To make their highest revenue-generating product, the iPhone, Apple partners with a huge number of suppliers. The 2018 Apple Supplier List names 200 suppliers for the company, totaling 98% of the expenditures required for the physical creation of their products.[2]
Apple boasts an incredibly efficient, and purportedly eco-conscious, supply chain management system, utilizing their own supplier assessment models as well as third-party audits.[3] The proposed Sustainability Score framework will dive deeper into the data that Apple provides, the data gleaned from other sources, and the data that Sustainability Score users crowdsource. The goal is to provide a consensus, independent from Apple’s published reports, on the environmental impact of the iPhone through a single score.


iPhone Supply Chain Map

Gathering data on the supply chain:
  • Apple provides some information on the suppliers it uses, as well as its own report’s conclusions and aggregated findings on the environmental sustainability of the company’s supply chain
  • However, suppliers are not organized by what part of the supply chain they occupy
  • There is no raw data from Apple on the audits and assessments of their suppliers
  • Here is information that Apple provides (all information from Apple’s 2019 supplier responsibility progress report):
  • Water stewardship
  • Apple and its suppliers are partnered with the Alliance for Water Stewardship
  • 116 of Apple’s suppliers are participating
  • 2018, participating suppliers saved 7.6B gallons of freshwater
  • 39% participating supplier reuse rate (not sure what this means - participating suppliers reuse 39% of their water?)
  • Two Apple suppliers received AWS certification
  • Waste management and reduction
  • The final assembly facilities for the iPhone became UL Zero Waste certified in 2018 (gold certified - diverted 95% from landfill)
  • Energy efficiency:
  • Apple’s Energy Efficiency Program led to a reduction of 466,000 annualized metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions
  • Apple has committed to generate/procure 4 gigawatts+ of renewable energy by 2020
  • Responsiveness and transparency:
  • Awarded the #1 ranking in the Corporate Information Transparency Index (designed by the IPE supply chain performance index)
  • Safer, greener chemicals
  • 100% of final assembly facilities adopted safer, greener chemicals
  • 2018, Apple was awarded an A+ rating and ranked first by Mind the Store for actions to eliminate toxic chemicals
  • Apple is compliant with the Dodd-Frank Act’s requirement to report “conflict minerals” (minerals that cause internal strife in the states where they are mined and traded)
  • Environment violations:
  • 93 out of 100 average assessment score
  • The assessment looks at:
  • Hazardous Substance Management
  • Stormwater Management
  • Air Emissions Management
  • And more
  • How the Sustainability Score framework could supplement, organize, and improve the working information that Apple provides:
  • The above information needs third-party transparency (it comes from an Apple-generated report)
  • The Sustainability Score framework suggests spin-off projects that creates a consortium of researchers to share their research and databases
  • The third-party audits that Apple claims it uses may also be incentivized to join this working group, donating the datasets that they compile
  • The above information is also at an aggregated level - we don’t have information about individual suppliers, nor is the information organized by placement along the supply chain (although this can be partially inferred).
  • Currently, we can create a partially inferred model of how sustainability is managed at each step of the supply chain
  • The Sustainability Score’s proposed “whistleblower” platform can help provide structure to red flags along specific sections of the supply chain
The Supply Chain Model:
  • This is the supply chain designed by Apple itself:
  • A supply chain model for the iPhone from a third party:
  • This is a supply chain model designed by German analyses of industry supply chains[4]:
  • Another model of a supply chain framework:

Sustainability Score Indices

Gathering data on the iPhone’s environmental impact (this is based on the working indices suggested in the overall framework document, as well as combining some of the supply chain models above - please edit as needed)
  • This table breaks down the environmental sustainability at each step of the supply chain:
Raw Materials
Production of Inputs (intermediate goods)
Production of Outputs (manufactured goods)
Consumer (logistics, retail stores, recycling)
Final Score:
Carbon Footprint
CO2 emissions
Water usage
Waste created
Durability components (can be broken out into further rows)
Reusability components (can be broken out into further rows)
Responsiveness and Transparency components (can be broken out into further rows)
  • This table aggregates the above information into the overall score for each index (this assumes that the above table will have more rows that breaks out the below columns into various components)
Climate Impact (carbon footprint)
Environment & Ecosystem Impact (CO2 emissions + Water usage)
Waste Created
Responsiveness and transparency

Computing the Sustainability Score

This section will need to be built out, based out the final scoring system that we decide in the final overall framework document.


[4] Jungmichel, Norbert, Christina Schampel and Daniel Weiss (2017): Atlas on Environmental Impacts - Supply Chains – Environmental Impacts and Hot Spots in the Supply Chain. Berlin/Hamburg: adelphi/Systain.