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Apple Dropping EPEAT Risked Big Sales; Decision ReversedBy Barry Levine
Posted: July 11, 2012 1:20pm PDT
Apple has stopped using an environmental certification program for its products. In response, at least one major American city has decided to stop using Apple products.
The Cupertino, Calif.-based company said Tuesday that it has decided to drop out of the EPEAT rating system, which is used to monitor computers' environment impact. As a result, the fifty departments of the city of San Francisco are no longer allowed to buy computers or displays from the nearby technology giant, although EPEAT does not currently apply to smartphones or tablets such as iPhones or iPads.
Apple's decision could reverberate among other governmental units in the U.S., as well as universities, many of which use the standards as a factor in deciding which technological products to buy.
The huge University of California, for instance, has said that it is considering whether to continue purchasing Apple products. In addition, the federal government reportedly requires that 95 percent of its purchased computers have EPEAT certification.
Apple was a participant in the creation of the EPEAT standard in 2006, which was formulated by a group of technology companies, environmental organizations and federal agencies. Apple says that it will continue to meet rigorous environmental standards, such as the federal Energy Star energy efficiency program.
Company spokeswoman Kristin Huguet told news media that Apple "takes a comprehensive approach to measuring our environmental impact." She added that Apple leads "the industry by reporting each product's greenhouse gas emissions on our Web site, and Apple products are superior in other important environmental areas not measured by EPEAT, such as removal of toxic materials."
Batteries Glued to Casing
EPEAT is managed by an independent, non-profit organization of the same name. On its Web site, the organization said that it regretted that "Apple will no longer be registering its products in EPEAT," and expressed the hope that the company would change its mind.
The organization said that its rating offers a chance for participating electronics manufacturers to "showcase and validate their greener design initiatives, cleaner production and customer support services." It added that the standard is "more than simply a product rating," because it is a "community effort" to define and maintain best practices for environmental sustainability for electronic products.
As Apple has been a leader in environmental awareness and advocacy, such as in its use of energy at its facilities and the elimination of toxic chemicals from its products, the move is puzzling. EPEAT's CEO, Robert Frisbee, told news media that his conversations with Apple have indicated that their "design direction is not compatible with EPEAT standards."
Design Over Environment?
For instance, the batteries in the new MacBook Pros are glued to the casing and cannot be disassembled for recycling -- which violates the EPEAT standard. Frisbee said this was "odd," since Apple helped create that very standard.
The reason for glued batteries in the MacBooks is not evident, although there is speculation that it reflects the company's penchant for discouraging users from tinkering with its products. The batteries, which contain toxic materials, must be able to be separated from the recyclable materials if a product is to meet the EPEAT standard.
Casey Harrell, spokesman for the environmental organization Greenpeace, said that Apple "has pitted design against the environment -- and chosen design."
Story Update -- July 14 -- Apple Rejoins EPEAT
In response to a deluge of negative feedback and potential lost sales, Apple has decided not to withdraw its products from the EPEAT registry.
The following letter from Bob Mansfield, Apple's Senior Vice President of Hardware Engineering, explains their decision and the sudden turn of events. The letter, which is posted on Apple's site, reads as follows:
We've recently heard from many loyal Apple customers who were disappointed to learn that we had removed our products from the EPEAT rating system. I recognize that this was a mistake. Starting today, all eligible Apple products are back on EPEAT.
It's important to know that our commitment to protecting the environment has never changed, and today it is as strong as ever. Apple makes the most environmentally responsible products in our industry. In fact, our engineering teams have worked incredibly hard over the years to make our products even more environmentally friendly, and much of our progress has come in areas not yet measured by EPEAT.
For example, Apple led the industry in removing harmful toxins such as brominated flame retardants (BFRs) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). We are the only company to comprehensively report greenhouse gas emissions for every product we make, taking into account the entire product lifecycle. And we've removed plastics wherever possible, in favor of materials that are more highly recyclable, more durable, more efficient and longer lasting.
Perhaps most importantly, we make the most energy-efficient computers in the world and our entire product line exceeds the stringent ENERGY STAR 5.2 government standard. No one else in our industry can make that claim.
We think the IEEE 1680.1 standard could be a much stronger force for protecting the environment if it were upgraded to include advancements like these. This standard, on which the EPEAT rating system is based, is an important measuring stick for our industry and its products.
Our relationship with EPEAT has become stronger as a result of this experience, and we look forward to working with EPEAT as their rating system and the underlying IEEE 1680.1 standard evolve. Our team at Apple is dedicated to designing products that everyone can be proud to own and use.
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