It can be tough to love Apple, Inc. Stock prices over $600? Check. Over $100 billion in cold, hard, cash? You bet. Products loved even by those who don’t even own one? Of course! Profits over $6.5 billion a quarter? No sweat. Charitable organization? Er… Recycle program for its gadgets? Well, up to a point. Environmentally-sensitive product line? Yes, sort of. Unless we’re not. Tell you what, let’s just drop that off the list, ok?
for environmentally-friendly production of technologies back in 200-2001. But this past Tuesday Apple quietly backed out of its commitment to the program. In fact, Apple only responded yesterday, once word started to spread (darn that social networking stuff that Apple products do so well!) and some contracts were put on hold.
Why has the leading tech company withdrawn from its own environmental guidelines? Will the Apple brand be bruised by the move?
EPEAT (Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool) began as a tech-corporate initiative meant to (as opposed to government-mandated set) to encourage improvements in energy standards, curtailment of waste and greenhouse gasses, and recycleability of products.
Our mission: Operate the most successful global environmental rating system for electronic products, helping connect purchasers to environmentally preferable choices, and thereby benefiting producers who demonstrate environmental responsibility and innovation
Our values: Leadership, transparency, continuous improvement, collaboration and market-orientation
Apple was one of the founding companies on it (along with Acer, Dell, Hundai IT America, and Sony). Indeed, Apple’s move to aluminum chassis for their computers in 2006-07 was, in part, an effort to improve opportunities to recycle computers. Many government organizations wanted to encourage such innovation by requiring their bureaus to purchase tech equipment from EPEAT participants. The first spreading of the news of Apple’s pull-out was, in fact, news that civic administrations like the city because of that pull-out.
But with the withdrawal, people were wondering if Apple were being greedy, or lazy. As Agam Shaw reports at PCWorld’s ‘Business Center,’ many believe Apple wants to move toward suppliers who don’t meet such standards and whose supplies are cheaper. But others believe Apple wants to have flexibility to build products that are smaller, lighter, and physically unified in ways that are not EPEAT compatible at the moment, though the technology will probably make them compatible later. In particular the new MacBook Pro with Retina Screen is made with recyclable materials, but assembled in ways that make .
The complicating factor in all this,of its self removal from EPEAT, is that the company’s products usually exceed the standards. They did last week, and those same products will exceed the standards next week:
“Apple takes a comprehensive approach to measuring our environmental impact and all of our products meet the strictest energy efficiency standards backed by the US government, Energy Star 5.2,” Apple representative Kristin Huguet, told The Loop. “We also lead the industry by reporting each product’s greenhouse gas emissions on our website, and Apple products are superior in other important environmental areas not measured by EPEAT, such as removal of toxic materials.”
The fundamental issue, though, is not whether Apple touts an EPEAT sticker. probably the technology will change, recyclability will rise and fall, and Apple is free to return to the EPEAT standards at any time. The underlying, and we would argue more serious problem, is that Apple’s step away from standards it helped create simply highlights a legal, economic, political… trend that has encouraged some of the striking legal, economic, political… crises we have faced in the last thirty-odd years. We are growing blasé and cynical about a culture that allows the biggest players in the game also to be the umpires of that same game. Imagine Alex Rodriguez getting to call balls and strikes on David Ortiz. Or LeBron James deciding that he doesn’t need to follow the rule on double dribbling, as it only hampers his creativity.
Well: bankers regulate banking rules (and get bailouts when they decide the rules are too strict), movie studios pre-rate their movies to encourage the MPPA to rate them as they want, the House of Representatives gets to vote down health care reform while saving their own federally mandated (and single-payer) health care plan. The point of an MLB Commissioner was to oversee the cartel of owners after the betting scandals of the 1920s. But for the last 15 years the Commissioner is one of the cartel.
And Apple lays out the standards for environmental awareness in technology. Until Apple doesn’t want to play by its rules.