Apple: Exiting EPEAT Environmental Program Was Mistake

Company responds to customer and media criticism by saying it will return to submitting most of its products for EPEAT certification.
New iPad Teardown: Inside Apple's Tablet
New iPad Teardown: Inside Apple's Tablet
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Following criticism from environmental groups and customers, Apple Friday said it will resume submitting its products to the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) certification program, with the exception of its new MacBook Pro Retina model.

Apple hardware SVP Bob Mansfield, whose impending retirement was announced in June, published a letter on Apple's website indicating that the company was responding to customers who objected to the company's decision to abandon EPEAT.

"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," Mansfield said. "I recognize that this was a mistake. Starting today, all eligible Apple products are back on EPEAT."

The key word here is "eligible." Apple last month told Robert Frisbee, CEO of EPEAT, that it would not longer be submitting 39 of its products for review, according to CIO Journal. The new MacBook Pro Retina was never eligible for EPEAT certification because it does not meet the disassembly requirement. Apple chose to sacrifice repairability and recyclability in its MacBook Pro Retina to accommodate design requirements that included gluing screen glass and the battery in place.

[Read Apple Clean Cloud More Talk Than Walk: Greenpeace.]

In a phone interview on Thursday, Gary Cook, senior policy analyst for Greenpeace International, said Apple was making a false choice between design and recyclability. He characterized Apple's exit from EPEAT as "a step backwards from what had previously been quite good environmental leadership," and noted that technology products should "last longer and be repairable."

In his letter, Mansfield insists that Apple continues to lead the industry in its environmental practices. "[W]e make the most energy-efficient computers in the world and our entire product line exceeds the stringent ENERGY STAR 5.2 government standard," he wrote. "No one else in our industry can make that claim."

Greenpeace on Thursday described Apple's environmental leadership as heavy on words but light on action, noting that the company has not shown that it has followed through on a pledge to run its data centers using only renewable energy.

Whether or not Apple's green cred is restored by its contrition, the company will benefit by continuing to be eligible for government and academic IT contracts, many of which require EPEAT certification.

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