Apple drops EPEAT in favour of ‘comprehensive approach’ to environmental standards

11 Jul 2012

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Apple's headquarters on Infinite Loop in Cupertino, California. Image from Wikimedia Commons

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Last week, Apple asked that its products be removed from EPEAT’s list of environmentally friendly electronics, later stating that the company intends to adhere to a stricter set of standards.

Many manufacturers, including Apple, were involved in the establishment of EPEAT certification, which indicates that electronic products are recyclable, energy efficient and designed to minimise environmental damage.

To achieve this standard, products must be easily disassembled with common tools, and any toxic components, such as batteries, must be easily separated.

Though it is not clear why Apple has decided to withdraw 39 certified desktop computers, monitors and laptops from the list, Robert Frisbee, CEO of EPEAT, told The Wall Street Journal blog CIO Journal that Apple said its design was no longer consistent with the EPEAT standard.

This may be referring to the design of Apple’s newest, not-yet-certified products like the MacBook Pro with Retina display. As was observed through a tear-down by iFixit, the new laptop is not easily pulled apart, earning it the site’s lowest repairability score ever and indicating why it would not meet the EPEAT standard.

Repercussions

The repercussions of being removed from the global registry of ‘green’ products could be significant for Apple as many bodies now drive towards using environmentally friendly products, many with policies specifically citing EPEAT certification. In fact, the US government requires that 95pc of its electronic product purchases come with EPEAT certification.

The fallout from this is already coming into effect as the Department of the Environment in San Francisco has since advised all 50 of the city’s agencies not to purchase Apple products, a move which has been backed by the city’s chief information officer, Jon Walton.

A comprehensive measure of environmental impact

Perhaps the most surprising thing about Apple’s sudden dismissal of the EPEAT standard is the mystery shrouding the company’s reasons behind the decision, being a company that appears to be environmentally conscious.

In a statement to The Loop, Apple representative Kristin Huguet said, “Apple takes a comprehensive approach to measuring our environmental impact and all of our products meet the strictest energy-efficiency standards backed by the US government, Energy Star 5.2.”

Apple is known to publish its annual environmental impact reports, as well as each product’s greenhouse gas emissions, on its website, and it also runs its own recycling programme online and in stores.

The EPEAT standard – though crucial for approval with many educational institutes, businesses and government agencies – does not cover all bases when it comes to environmental concerns. “Apple products are superior in other important environmental areas not measured by EPEAT, such as removal of toxic materials,” said Huguet.

The standard also doesn’t cover smartphones or tablet computers, so the iPhone and iPad are denied certification based on this.

Elaine Burke is managing editor of Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com