By Arjun Kharpal
Apple has expanded its green initiatives in China in a bid to clean up its image in one of its most lucrative markets.
The U.S. technology giant wants to achieve "a net-zero impact" on the world's supply of "virgin fiber" – a wood product used to make packaging - and run its global operations completely on renewable energy.
On Monday, Apple said it had teamed up with World Wildlife Fund to significantly increase the amount of responsibly-managed forests across China.
The announcement comes three weeks after the Cupertino, CA-based company announced a solar project in China's Sichuan province to generate enough energy to power all of Apple's corporate offices and retail stores in the country, as well as 61,000 Chinese homes.
Currently, 87 percent of Apple's global operations run on renewable energy. Apple has pledged to make 100 percent of its worldwide operations run on renewable energy, although it has not given itself a deadline. Its forest project aims to make the supply chain completely sustainable too.
"This won't happen overnight—in fact it will take years—but it's important work that has to happen," Apple CEO, Tim Cook, said in a press release.
China is crucial for Apple and was the company's second-biggest market by revenue
in the second quarter of this year, with more iPhones sold in China than the U.S.
But Apple has received criticism in the past over its relationship with its suppliers in the world's second-largest economy.
A report by the Beijing-based Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs in 2011 accused Apple's suppliers of causing severe pollution that endangered the public's health and safety. And last year, a report by watchdog group China Labor Watch claimed there were unsafe working conditions at factories where Apple components are made.
"Last year we conducted 451 audits deep into our supply chain so we could uncover problems and work with our suppliers to fix them, and we make it a priority to investigate every specific concern brought to our attention," Apple said in a statement at the time.