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Tim Cook defends Apple against greenwashing accusation

Apple CEO Tim Cook

Apple CEO Tim Cook says greenwashing "is reprehensible" and has shown environmental journalists around the company's previously secret data center.

It's another in a series of Tim Cook's post-iPhone 15 launch interviews, but it was rather more substantive than when he was asked which color phone he'd got. This time, media company Brut. (spelt with a period and unrelated to the aftershave), pressed Cook on the environment, starting with buyers don't really need a new iPhone every year.

"I think having an iPhone every year for those people that want it is a great thing," said Cook. "And what we do is we allow people to trade in their phone... and so we then resell that phone if it's still working."

"And if it's not working, we've got ways of disassembling it," he continued, "and taking the materials to make a new iPhone out of."

The interview took place at an Apple data center in Denmark. It's reportedly the first time that Apple has welcomed journalists to the site, where it has previously avoided commenting on the data center.

"We are a very secretive company with our products," said Cook, actually pulling his hands and arms in toward his chest to emphasize the point. "So we want to keep our products to ourselves until they're ready to announce and then announce those to the world and describe those."

"[However, the] environment," he continued. "[It] is different with our initiatives like the environment. We want to be very open because we want to be copied."

Gesturing at the rows of solar panels on the ground surrounding the data center, he said that "we want people to be able to look at this field that we're in today and say 'I can do that too.'"

"We want to be the ripple in the pond that other people can look at and copy," said Cook, "and [that] makes much more effect from an environmental point of view."

Carbon neurtrality through alleged greenwashing

Brut's interviewer criticized Cook's repeated use of the term "carbon neutral," saying that it was close to meaningless. But Cook defended it, saying that in Apple's case it meant taking action, rather than attempting to "greenwash" by deceptively using cheaper ways of offsetting carbon usage.

"I'd invite anybody to look at how we're defining it on our website because what we're doing is doing the hard work to lower our footprint dramatically," he said, "and then whatever is left over after doing all of these actions we offset with with high-quality offsets like managed forests and managed grasslands that pull carbon from the atmosphere."

"But what our objective is to eliminate as much as possible prior to doing that," he continued.

"Greenwashing is reprehensible," said Cook. "And so what if you think about what we're doing, we're doing the work and then saying what we're doing."

"And you're standing in part of the work today [in this field of solar panels], so there's a real proof point," he continued. "The fact that there's 30 percent recycled material on the watch, that's a proof point."

"All of these things are actions that we've taken and they all add up to now a carbon neutral Watch [in certain configurations]," said Cook. " And by 2030, a carbon neutral products across the board."

Cook would not be drawn on the future of the iPhone — except to say that it will be carbon neutral. He did, though, say that Apple's long-standing ambition to be carbon neutral by 2030 is 20 years ahead of the Paris Accords.