July 13, 2012

Apple Backtracks, Apologizes On EPEAT Decision

Michael Harper for - Your Universe Online

Is this the most Bob Mansfield has ever graced headlines in his entire career with Apple? And right before he leaves, too“¦shame.

It doesn´t happen often, so be sure to remember today, July 13, 2012“¦the day Apple admitted they were wrong.

It didn´t seem like it was going to be a big deal at first. Apple decided their new designs wouldn´t be compatible with EPEAT standards, so they jumped ship.

“They said their design direction was no longer consistent with the EPEAT requirements,” said EPEAT CEO Robert Frisbee. “They were important supporters and we are disappointed that they don´t want their products measured by this standard anymore.”

Apple, on the other hand, stood firm early this week, before ultimately caving in.

“Apple takes a comprehensive approach to measuring our environmental impact and all of our products meet the strictest energy efficiency standards backed by the U.S. government, Energy Star 5.2.” “We also lead the industry by reporting each product´s greenhouse gas emissions on our website, and Apple products are superior in other important environmental areas not measured by EPEAT, such as removal of toxic materials.”

There were some organizations, however–namely government agencies, universities, etc– who have committed to only buying computers with an EPEAT certification. For a day, there existed a tense stare down between Apple and bureaucracy, a game of chicken between the devices these organizations relied on and the standards their boards had signed into effect.

As fate would have it, the first to make their move was the city of San Francisco. Though disappointed, a city spokeswoman said they would not be buying anymore Apple computers if they continued to shirk the EPEAT certification.

It´s interesting to note that Apple didn´t go through their stores, gleefully ripping the EPEAT certification information from the pristine white boxes. Every computer in their lineup which previously bore the certification, like the iMacs and MacBook Pros, is still available for sale. Any company concerned by this could have just stoked up on new computers and worked on their arguments to their boards to have the EPEAT standards reversed.

Bob Mansfield saved them the argument and today issued “A letter from 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.

Bob then goes on to boast Apple´s other environmental triumphs, such as their Energy Star 5.2 standards surpassing computers.

There are a few interesting points to ponder as we let Bob´s letter soak in. First, how will Apple make their computers smaller now? They were able to shave some girth from the new MacBook Pros with Retina Display by breaking the EPEAT rules and gluing the battery into the case. With this option gone, how will they continue their lifelong push to thin and sexy machines?

Secondly, I´d like to know which organization persuaded them to change their mind. Was it San Francisco?

Anyone who knows Apple knows their departure from EPEAT didn´t mean they were going to implement a “Every New Employee Gets A Hummer!” policy. They still care about the environment, but only so much. More than any other company, probably, but still“¦only so much.

When Apple announces a product, they talk about the design first, the software second and end with the price.

The environmental stuff, the recycling policies and Energy Star ratings and EPEAT certification are always last, usually left to a slide with all of their extra bits and bobs which didn´t make the actual performance.

As an example, I challenge you to go find the environmental section of any Apple computer. It´s not hard to find, but it´s not front and center, either. It gets the same treatment on the web as it does in a presentation: tucked away behind Features, Design, Performance (and the rest) at the very bottom of Tech Specs.

In the end, Apple is doing their part. Good on them.

But didn´t everyone overreact just a little?