I love a lot of things about Apple and my iPhone is practically permanently affixed to my body. When a company is a s big as Apple, though, and working to remain a leader in among rapidly evolving technologies in tough economic times, they are bound to make a few missteps. Apple has taken a little bit of heat recently for working conditions in their oversees plants, and in the past couple weeks, Apple has also made headlines for announcing that they were opting out of EPEAT and then quickly reversing that decision.
EPEAT is a certification system that aims to reduce the negative social and environmental impacts of electronic products. According to the EPEAT website, electronics that carry the certification are more energy efficient, less toxic, longer lasting, easier to recycle and less wasteful than products that are not certified. Desktops, laptops, integrated systems, displays,workstations, and thin client devices are all eligible for EPEAT certification if they meet requirements in production, use, recycling and waste categories.
Apple has historically been a strong supporter of EPEAT with 39 of their products on the EPEAT registry prior to Apple’s announcement that they were abandoning the certification system. Apple didn’t specifically indicate what was behind their decision and announcement, but the news media seem to agree that it was likely based on some versions of their new retina displays being able to meet EPEAT requirements for disassembly and disposal.
It only took a matter of days for public institutions and local governments that have purchasing policies in place that require EPEAT certified products to publicly indicate that they would no longer be purchasing Apple products if they no longer carried the certification. About a week after the announcement Apple reversed their decision stating that they would continue to certify all eligible products using EPEAT. This still leaves an opening for them to opt not to certify “ineligible” products (like the current retina display design) but it was still a compelling reminder of the power consumers have in shaping and enforcing a company’s policies. To me, this is extremely encouraging sign that we can have an ongoing and lasting effect on corporate responsibility!