Once again, Apple is making headlines for a controversial environmental policy.
In late June, the company abruptly withdrew its products from the influential EPEAT green technology certification program. It comes as a shock because Apple was among the companies originally involved in designing the EPEAT rating criteria.
EPEAT (Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool) reduces the environmental impact of computer desktops, laptops, and monitors by certifying them on 51 environmental criteria developed through an extensive stakeholder consensus process supported by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
EPEAT-registered computers have lower levels of cadmium, lead, and mercury, are more energy efficient, and are easier to upgrade and recycle.
The registry has over 1,000 products and more than 30 participating manufacturers, from global giants to small integrators.
Other products, including televisions, printers and computer servers, are being added to EPEAT soon. But smartphones and tablet computers have yet to be included, which means Apple’s iPad wouldn’t be affected.
The move will knock Apple off the approved technology procurement lists of many government agencies, universities and corporations that require EPEAT approval. San Francisco already says it will no longer buy those products from Apple because it requires 95% to be EPEAT-certified.
Apple has not explained its reasons publicly, but the likely catalyst is the latest generation of MacBook Pro notebook computers, which feature an integrated design that is very difficult to take apart for recycling or refurbishment. That is at odds with EPEAT, which encourages computer system configurations that are easy to disassemble.
“I’ve had some conversations, and Apple has said that their design direction is not compatible with EPEAT standards,” EPEAT CEO Robert Frisbee told the Silicon Valley MercuryNews.
Apple says it meets strict environmental standards, including Energy Star. “Apple takes a comprehensive approach to measuring our environmental impact, and all of our products meet the strictest energy efficiency standards backed by the U.S. government,”Kristin Huguet, an Apple spokesperson told Bloomberg. “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.”
Despite its high profile in the technology industry, Apple has been taken to task most recently for working conditions in China at Foxconn and over the longer term for lack of leadership on energy used in its mammoth data centers.
After being at the bottom of the list for its industry in How Dirty is Your Data Center and not even rated in Greenpeace’s Cool IT Leaderboard, Apple turned a new leaf at its new data center, which is powered by innovative energy efficiency techniques and large renewable energy systems.
It could be that EPEAT standards need to be updated since they are several years old, to resolve issues that don’t work for Apple, an EPEAT spokesperson told Bloomberg. But leaving unilaterally doesn’t seem to be the best course for anyone.
Here’s EPEAT’s website: