An iPhone or a midwife’s salary? New report targets Apple

29 March 2023, immediate use

A new report by campaigning charity Population Matters takes aim at Apple, the most valuable company in the world, (1) for the environmental damage caused by the production of hundreds of millions of iPhones a year, (2) and for driving unsustainable consumption through its marketing and annual product releases. Among the findings of iCon: Apple, consumption and the cost to our planet are:

Population Matters director, Robin Maynard, says:

“Read Apple’s environment report and you’ll be impressed. But what it doesn’t tell you is that since 2007, Apple has released 13 generations of iPhone with almost 40 different models, and it pulls out all the stops to get people to buy them, even when their existing phones work perfectly. Manipulative marketing on an almost unimaginable scale and schemes to facilitate annual upgrades drive a desire for consumption that is killing our planet.

“The billions of phones Apple has sold – and the billions more it intends to sell in future – carry an environmental cost that is no less destructive for being hard to see and easily obscured by policies, propaganda and promises. The only purchase with no environmental impact is no purchase at all.”

The report examines the impact of unsustainable consumption on the environment, noting the requirements in, among others, the Sustainable Development Goals and the Convention on Biodiversity for reduced global consumption. (11)

It details how advertising and marketing drive consumer activity, and exposes the techniques Apple employs to persuade people to buy its products, from vast advertising spends to packaging which looks good in unboxing videos. (12)

It then examines the environmental impacts of producing, marketing, distributing and, eventually, discarding iPhones, including:

The report applauds Apple’s keynote pledge to be carbon neutral by 2030, but demonstrates how carbon offsetting and alternative energy use themselves carry an environmental cost. (19)

The iCon report concludes by calling on Apple and other smartphone companies to end the annual product upgrade cycle and associated finance schemes, and use R&D investment to improve environmental performance instead of generating marginally improved user features.  

It also calls on governments to ensure companies are providing accurate, standardised and comprehensive environmental reporting, and to commit themselves to action to achieve and exceed the goals set in the Sustainable Development Goals and Convention on Biodiversity to reduce consumption.

Robin Maynard continues:

“Apple is neither the most destructive nor the most cynical company out there – not by a long way. It deserves some credit for the environmental policies it does have. But environmental responsibility isn’t reducing packaging with one hand and selling more packages with the other. More products, more sales, more customers and more growth is destroying our planet.

“In 2011, the clothing company Patagonia released an advert saying “don’t buy this jacket”.  What Patagonia had the courage to do in 2011, Apple could certainly do now, and use the unparalleled power of it brand, marketing and global presence to ignite a conversation going far beyond the usual boundaries of ESG reporting.  That conversation is more vital than ever.”

The full report is available at  (Executive summary and key findings on p3)


Alistair Currie, Head of Campaigns and Communications


T: +44 (0)208 123 9170


(1) Market capitalisation of $2.49 trillion., accessed 28 March 2023,

(2) An estimated 2.2bn iPhones have been sold, with almost a quarter of a billion (224m), shipped in 2022. That is about 613,000 a day, or 425 units per minute. Source: Counterpoint Research 3 February 2023

(3) 23.2 million tonnes of CO2-equivalent, Apple Environmental Progress Report 2022 Broadly equivalent to carbon footprint of Croatia. Source: Global Carbon Atlas , (2020 figures, most recent available)

(4) Cost of an iPhone bought directly from Apple, March 2023: £849.  Average monthly salary for nurse midwife, 26,000 BDT, equivalent to £201 (currency conversion by, 20 March 2023),

(5), accessed February 2023

(6) Advertising spend source: Statista (2022) Water provision source: $1.8bn for sanitation, $845bn for hygiene. Chaitkin et al (2022) Estimating the cost of achieving basic water, sanitation, hygiene, and waste management services in public health-care facilities in the 46 UN designated least-developed countries: a modelling study The Lancet

(7) Corporate use (own facilities) reported by Apple at 1.4 billion gallons, but they note that represents just 1% of use throughout the entire supply chain. Apple Environmental Progress Report 2022

(8) Apple conflict minerals report 2021 ; Apple supplier list 2021

(9) Apple Environmental Progress Report 2022

(10) Interview with Knives Out director Rian Johnson: “Apple… let you use iPhones in movies but – and this is very pivotal if you’re ever watching a mystery movie – bad guys cannot have iPhones on camera.”  The Verge  26 February 2020

(11) See iCon report, p5

(12) See iCon report, pp9-12

(13) “In 2016 it was estimated that 1% of total energy consumption on this planet is used just to serve online ads. Since global ad spend has increased by 258% since 2016, we can safely assume that the planetary impact of digital advertising has also skyrocketed.” Global Action Plan (2022) ; Apple expenditure source: Apple Insider (2021) 

(14) See iCon report, p14

(15) See details: iCon report, p20

(16) 1,750,000 tonnes CO2e. Source: Apple Environmental Progress Report 2022

(17) See iCon report, p21

(18) See iCon report, p15

(19) See iCon report, p10-20

Population Matters is a UK-based charity working globally to achieve a sustainable future for people and planet. Our mission is to drive positive, large-scale action through fostering choices that help achieve a sustainable human population and regenerate our environment.

The Chandlery, 50 Westminster Bridge Rd, London SE1 7QY, UK

UK charity number: 1114109


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