Xu smiles as she walks in a verdant city park with modern skyscrapers in the distant background.

Keeping it green. And clean.

Xu’s story

As a kid, I always wanted a bluer sky and cleaner
water. I wanted to help
make that happen.
Xu, Environment and Supply Chain Innovation Program Manager
Shanghai, China

Question: What inspired you to do this kind of work? Answer: I was raised in a coal-mining community, so I saw firsthand how industry, environment, and community are related. And as I grew up, I learned how a community could come together to improve the world around them. Question: That was the spark? Answer: Yes, seeing that determined people could create change. So, at university I majored in environment science and technology, and I’ve been at Apple for about five years now.

Two molecular models: one of carbon dioxide and one of water
It’s different here: You’re encouraged to think beyond a rigid job
description to influence change
— you feel more invested.

Question: Many at Apple are doing environment-related work — what’s the focus of your particular team? Answer: We drive environmental innovation within the supply chain. That really matters because we create many millions of products for people around the world, and those products are built in partnership with thousands of material suppliers, so it’s important that we consider our impact. Question: Do you do much of your work in a supplier’s facility? Answer: A lot, yes. I work directly with our supply chain partners to create cleaner ways to work. My role is to help make sure that the materials and processes we use are safe.

Question: People must find that reassuring, given these are devices that we’re using or holding or wearing. Answer: For sure, but it’s bigger than what we experience as customers using the products. We want our suppliers to understand the environmental and safety standards in place for everyone in the product’s journey, including their own employees.

We think of who uses a product and also who builds it — and we apply the same high standard of safety, regardless.

Question: Sounds like a win-win. Answer: I’d add another win, because we don’t stop there — we also share these innovations with other manufacturers. Question: Sharing innovations sounds like an innovation itself. Answer: Well, when new ideas make a difference for the environment, that’s not something we want to keep to ourselves. Question: How does that sharing work? Answer: I represent Apple as a chairperson of a committee that’s creating an industry standard for green chemistry. We meet to collaborate with others and share ideas about safety and environmental solutions for stronger standards worldwide.

It’s like the opposite of a company secret: When we create safer, cleaner methods, we share them across the industry.

Question: How does this translate to actual production? Answer: Carefully and diligently. For example, if one of our programs calls for material changes, it can require changes on production lines, but we work to make it as simple as possible to adopt the safer, cleaner way to work. Question: Does simple mean easy? Answer: Well, even if it takes extra effort, our suppliers and Apple people know it’s the right thing to do. And support for these efforts goes all the way to the top of our leadership.

I talk with my kids about what I do, and more importantly, about why I do it.
 Five molecular models, one each representing carbon dioxide, water, and glucose and two representing oxygen.

Illustrated on iPad