EPEAT Offender: Apple Brand Bruised By Quitting Environmental Registry (UPDATE)

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Apple has pulled out of EPEAT, a global non-profit eco-rating service sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and will no longer label its electronic products according to their environmental impact as a result.

In stating its disappointment at the move, EPEAT noted that its certification program is “more than simply a product rating – it is also a community effort by all interested stakeholders to define and maintain best practice in environmental sustainability for electronics.”

Tech Week Europe sees it as “a setback to Apple’s green campaign and may have come about because of difficulties in dismantling and recycling new MacBook products.”[more]

Already smarting from criticism that labor practices at Foxconn and other Chinese manufacturers are irresponsible manufacturing, the brand this week was criticized for gluing in batteries to its new MacBook, which led a spokesperson for the city of San Francisco, which insists on EPEAT standards as part of its toxics reduction commitment, to comment:

“I don’t know why Apple would choose to go this route. It’s really bad for EPEAT and it’s really bad for anyone trying to do green purchasing. We strongly believe that eco-labels are essential for green purchasing, and Apple just withdrew from the list. We want to register our displeasure, and urge Apple to reconsider.”

Last month Apple made #13 on Interbrand’s 2012 Best Global Green Brands ranking with a cautionary note about the brand running afoul of another sustainability rating, by EIRIS:

Over the past year, Apple has increased sustainability efforts as consumers have become more aware of the beloved brand’s impact globally and across its supply chain. Apple focuses on optimal product engineering and design to reduce GHG emissions, and touts itself as the only company in its industry whose entire product line not only meets but also exceeds the strict energy guidelines of the Energy Star specifications. The company has announced plans to build a 20-megawatt solar power facility to support the operations of their new data center in North Carolina, which also earned the coveted LEED Platinum certification in 2011. The company’s new headquarters in California are expected to house approximately 13,000 employees, but will be totally self-sufficient in terms of energy use, with the national power grid serving only as a backup. However, the brand’s efforts have also been called into question, receiving a ”D” grade in EIRIS’ Top 10 Global Sustainability Leaders list. According to EIRIS, the company must do more to address its supply chain sustainability issues. Apple has begun to address these concerns with a Supplier Sustainability Report, which emphasizes training and educating suppliers on regulations.

July 13 update: Apple announced today that it is putting its eligible products back on the EPEAT registry in a letter to customers posted on its website, signed by SVP of hardware engineering Bob Mansfield —

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

It’s important to know that our commitment to protecting the environment has never changed, and today it is as strong as ever. Apple makes the most environmentally responsible products in our industry. In fact, our engineering teams have worked incredibly hard over the years to make our products even more environmentally friendly, and much of our progress has come in areas not yet measured by EPEAT.

For example, Apple led the industry in removing harmful toxins such as brominated flame retardants (BFRs) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). We are the only company to comprehensively report greenhouse gas emissions for every product we make, taking into account the entire product lifecycle. And we’ve removed plastics wherever possible, in favor of materials that are more highly recyclable, more durable, more efficient and longer lasting.

Perhaps most importantly, we make the most energy-efficient computers in the world and our entire product line exceeds the stringent ENERGY STAR 5.2 government standard. No one else in our industry can make that claim.

We think the IEEE 1680.1 standard could be a much stronger force for protecting the environment if it were upgraded to include advancements like these. This standard, on which the EPEAT rating system is based, is an important measuring stick for our industry and its products.

Our relationship with EPEAT has become stronger as a result of this experience, and we look forward to working with EPEAT as their rating system and the underlying IEEE 1680.1 standard evolve. Our team at Apple is dedicated to designing products that everyone can be proud to own and use.

Bob

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