Moment of truth: if the company that produces all of your favorite gadgets were to openly and unapologetically do something you find unethical, would you really, seriously stop buying their products?
Apple tested its customers' ethical standards last week when it withdrew its products from the EPEAT registry—the EPA-funded Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool. But in an open letter from SVP of hardware engineering Bob Mansfield, Apple announced that it is resubmitting its products to the EPEAT registry.
“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,” wrote Mansfield.
But in something of a “sorry, but…” apology letter, Mansfield explained that Apple is actually ahead of the curve when it comes to protecting the environment, and part of its problem with EPEAT is that their standards haven't kept pace.
“Much of our progress has come in areas not yet measured by EPEAT,” wrote Mansfield, who listed off a number of Apple’s environmentally progressive policies, including tracking greenhouse gas emissions throughout the entire lifecycle of a product. “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.”
One of the criteria for EPEAT certification is the ability to break down a product so that recyclable materials can be easily recycled and toxic materials—like those found in batteries—can be safely disposed of.
But Apple’s products have become increasingly complex and difficult to break down. In the latest MacBook Pro with Retina display, for example, Apple glued the battery to the case. A glued-in battery means the battery can’t be disposed of properly and the case can’t be recycled.
It’s not entirely clear how Apple is going to retool its products to make them more compliant with EPEAT, but both Apple and EPEAT are hailing the move as an environmental victory.
“We look forward to Apple’s strong and creative thoughts on ongoing standards development. The outcome must reward new directions for both design and sustainability, simultaneously supporting the environment and the market for all manufacturers’ elegant and high-performance products,” said EPEAT CEO Robert Frisbee, in a statement.
Frisbee also acknowledge truth in Apple’s insistence that it has actually innovated beyond some of the EPEAT’s standards.
“An interesting question for EPEAT is how to reward innovations that are not yet envisioned with standards that are fixed at a point in time,” said Frisbee. “Diverse goals, optional points awarded for innovations not yet described, and flexibility within specified parameters to make this happen are all on the table in EPEAT stakeholder discussions. And of course, timely standards development, as with newly created Imaging Equipment and Television standards, and the current refresh of the PC/Display standard, is critical as well.”
Image source: trolino.com