July 12, 2012
Apple's Green PR Pickle: Fallout From Gadget Giant's Withdrawal From Green Electronics Council's Eco-Assessment Program — Which Saw Apple Blacklisted From Federal Agency Approved-Products List — May Be Spurring Apple's PR To Rethink Decision
Apple last month withdrew its entire product line from the Green Electronics Council's Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) program, and said it would no longer be submitting new products for EPEAT environmental ratings. The gadget giant — which helped to create the EPEAT standards in 2006 — said its "design direction" was no longer consistent with EPEAT requirements, the Wall Street Journal reported at the time. But in 2007, a presidential executive order mandated that all federal agencies adhere to EPEAT standards when purchasing computers — so as a result of its withdrawal, schools, government agencies and entire cities have dropped Apple from their lists of approved suppliers, Now, the incident and its fallout has finally created an image-oriented pickle serious enough to stir the company's public relations department into action, Fortune reports. And so, despite the high-profile separation, Apple remains part of a team that is currently rewriting those same EPEAT standards to bring them up to date with current manufacturing processes. "Four study groups — including representation from Apple and other manufacturer participants as well as a wide array of other stakeholders and with research assistance from the Rochester Institute of Technology — have just delivered reports on a number of preliminary questions which will inform the … standard refresh process, expected to launch shortly," said Sarah O'Brien, a spokesperson for the Green Electronics Council, according to the Fortune report. EPEAT, she adds, "is designed to ramp up as technology design/direction changes and as environmental goals move from 'stretch' to widely achievable." It's not hard to see that it's a "stretch" to ask today's Apple products to meet standards written the year the company introduced the first MacBook Pro. The battery on that machine could be removed by hand, and the computer itself disassembled with a screwdriver. Try doing that with an iPhone, an iPad or a Retina MacBook Pro, Fortune's Philip Elmer-DeWitt reports.
According to O'Brien, the refresh process has taken "a bit longer than we would like," largely because the stakeholders have been busy creating new IEEE server standards and rewriting the rules that cover imaging equipment and televisions. "We just haven't seen the bandwidth available to execute the … refresh until this past fall — at which point we launched into the process," she said, Fortune reports.
How flexible EPEAT will be about making its refreshed standards "widely achievable" by Apple is not clear. And what neither Apple nor EPEAT is telling us is what happened behind the scenes to cause the company to administer this self-inflicted environmental black eye. After all, Apple could have left its 39 green-approved products on EPEAT's list while the new standards were being written and nobody would have been the wiser. The Green Electronics Council says it hopes the company will return to register its products with EPEAT some time in the future, but Apple hasn't said what it plans to do about EPEAT, Elmer-DeWitt reports in the Fortune article.