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Steve Jobs Affirms Apple's Commitment To Being Green

Company's announcement of cleaner environmental practices draws praise from former critic Greenpeace.

For the second time this year, Apple CEO Steve Jobs has broken the long period of silence that has usually passed between product introductions to address a matter of concern to the Internet community.

In February, Jobs called for an end to digital rights management technology in the music industry, to the general approval of online observers. And when British music label EMI announced that it was dropping DRM, Jobs and his company got considerable credit.

Today, with environmental practices increasingly becoming a competitive issue for high-tech companies, Jobs addressed criticism that Apple wasn't green enough, a charge that Greenpeace recently made. He disputed that characterization and pledged to communicate about the issue more effectively in the future.

"Upon investigating Apple's current practices and progress towards these goals, I was surprised to learn that in many cases Apple is ahead of, or will soon be ahead of, most of its competitors in these areas," Jobs said in an online post. "Whatever other improvements we need to make, it is certainly clear that we have failed to communicate the things that we are doing well."

Referring to Apple's policy of silence, Jobs said that Apple preferred to talk about what it had accomplished rather than trumpet future plans. But when it came to Apple's commitment to the environment, he said, "Our stakeholders deserve and expect more from us, and they're right to do so. They want us to be a leader in this area, just as we are in the other areas of our business. So today we're changing our policy."

Jobs listed several toxic materials used in electronics manufacturing that Apple had phased out, or was in the process of phasing out. Lead, a component of cathode-ray tube displays, is one example. "In mid-2006, Apple became the first company in the computer industry to completely eliminate CRTs," he said. "The effect has been stunning -- our first CRT-based iMac contained 484 grams of lead; our current third-generation LCD-based iMac contains less than 1 gram of lead."

Jobs pointed out that Dell, Gateway, Hewlett-Packard, and Lenovo still ship CRT displays.

Greenpeace today issued a statement endorsing Apple's commitment to being green. "We are cheering!" said the environmental organization. "Steve Jobs has decided to bring us closer to the greener Apple that Mac users all over the world have been asking for."

"Closer," however, is not quite there. While the organization praised Jobs for promising to phase out the worst chemicals in its products -- brominated fire retardants and polyvinyl chloride by 2008 -- ahead of Dell and other computer manufacturers, it nonetheless prodded Apple to extend its e-waste return program to customers outside the United States.

Given what Jobs said, there's reason to believe Apple will address such concerns soon.

"Today is the first time we have openly discussed our plans to become a greener Apple," Jobs concluded. "It will not be the last. We will be providing updates of our efforts and accomplishments at least annually, most likely around this time of the year. And we plan to bring other environmental issues to the table as well, such as the energy efficiency of the products in our industry. We are also beginning to explore the overall carbon 'footprint' of our products, and may have some interesting data and issues to share later this year."

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