A new report has cast doubts over Apple’s first “carbon neutral” products, with a lack of transparency around the tech giant’s suppliers’ emissions and concerns it may be “cherry-picking limited green resources”.

In announcing its newest products, Apple last month touted that the latest Apple Watch was carbon neutral with a certain combination of cases and bands, meaning its production doesn’t create more carbon dioxide emissions than Apple could capture or offset while making it.

The company said it was able to cut down emissions from the materials used to make the watches with the help of a supply chain using clean energy. Apple also offsets pollution through nature-based projects.

In announcing the new watches, Apple said that “innovations in design and clean energy” have driven reductions in product emissions of over 75 per cent for each Apple Watch.

“Our focus on renewable energy and low-carbon design has already driven industry-leading emissions reductions, and we’re not slowing down,” Apple’s vice-president of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives Lisa Jackson said.

“We’ve achieved an important milestone in making the world’s most popular watch carbon neutral - and we will keep innovating to meet the urgency of the moment.”

Apple also has a goal to become carbon neutral across all of its operations, supply chain and lifecycle for all of its products by 2030.

But a new report by the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, a non-profit research firm based in Beijing and founded by former investigative journalist Ma Jun, has cast serious doubts over Apple’s carbon neutral claims.

The report says that Apple has restricted access to data on the sustainability of its suppliers, making it impossible to verify these claims, and that the data that is available shows an increase in carbon emissions in some of the company’s suppliers.

“What is puzzling is that with the global smartphone shipments down 12 per cent in 2022, Apple’s supply chain emissions data, which we have collected through various channels, shows that carbon emissions from some of its suppliers have only decreased slightly, and in some cases are even increasing,” the report found.

According to the report, Apple no longer requires its suppliers to publicly disclose greenhouse gas emissions data.

“We believe there is a need for full disclosure and explanation of how Apple achieves carbon neutrality of its products, given the increase in carbon emissions from some of its suppliers,” the report said.

“With only seven years left for Apple to achieve its publicly stated commitment to become carbon neutral across its value chain, how does not requiring suppliers to disclose carbon emissions data prevent the risk of climate-washing?”

The report also questioned whether Apple was “cherry-picking limited green resources to achieve the ‘numerical’ carbon neutrality of a relatively niche product?”

“If that is the case, does Apple announcing carbon neutrality for its watch means that suppliers have to allocate the limited amount of clean electricity to the production process of particular products?” it said.

According to Apple’s latest environmental report, the company’s gross carbon emissions have fallen from 38.4 million metric tons in 2015 to 20.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2022. But its latest iPhone 15 has a larger carbon footprint than the iPhone 14.

“Against the background of the normalisation of environmental information disclosure, it is disappointing and even more puzzling that Apple, which has long been a leader in the IT / ICT industry, has begun to backtrack on its environmental information disclosure stance,” the report said.

Apple has a goal of reducing its emissions by 90 per cent by 2050.

“Fighting climate change remains one of Apple’s most urgent priorities, and moments like this put action to those words,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said last year.