Reaction has been lukewarm to the news that Apple has removed its 39 laptops and notebook entries from the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT), a voluntary registry promoting greener electronics, of which it is a founding member. EPEAT was developed jointly by manufacturers, universities, government agencies and activist groups to certify that electronics products are recyclable and have higher energy efficiency.
Apple hasn't made its reasons known publicly, but reportedly made the move because it began increasing the use of glues rather than fasteners in assembly. They are also using the high-resolution Retina Display, which provides a much crisper screen but adds more energy consumption to devices. Both make devices very difficult to repair and recycle.
Organizations which have policies to require EPEAT compliance include Ford Motor Co., KPMG and Kaiser Permanente, in the private sector, as well as several universities and federal, state and municipal agencies. The U.S. government requires that 95% of the electronics purchased by its agencies be certified by EPEAT. Both Ford and the Department of Energy declined to comment on Apple's decision.
According to the DOE, environmental benefits of EPEAT purchasing in FY11 included an energy savings of 50 million kilowatt hours and a projected cost savings of $4.8 million.
"That doesn't really have much of an effect on us since we don't use Apple computers or laptops and we're basically a Microsoft shop," said Dan Egan, a spokesperson with the Office of Administration for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, which is listed as an EPEAT member. "There are some iPads for some field inspectors and... some used individually under our BYOD policy, but we're not big users of Apple products."
In terms of purchasing electronics going forward, Egan said, "the state supports green technology and energy efficient products," and has required that state agencies use energy efficient computer products since 2008.
Apple's decision reportedly prompted officials with the San Francisco Department of Environment to state that letters would be sent out in the next couple of weeks informing all 50 of the city's agencies that Apple laptops and desktops can no longer be purchased with city funds.
But in the big picture, Apple's move is not expected to have a significant impact on its business, according to David Daoud, research director, PCs and Green IT, at IDC. "EPEAT tends to be a program catered to the federal government and has essentially had a limited... broad commercial impact," he said. "Apple is very strong in the consumer market and EPEAT plays no role there."
Yet, there is evidence that Apple has been making headway in the enterprise. Almost half of corporations have issued Macs to some employees, especially managers and executives, and plan a 52% increase in 2012, according to Forrester Research.
Daoud said Apple is bound to find some resistance from buyers who aren't happy about the decision, but believes it needs only to have "a PR discussion" as to "why they're not being environmental. If you're Apple you have to look at the implications of certifying every single product. As much as I'd love to say it's a bad move, the financial guys are looking at it differently."