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July 17, 2012
Apple Reverses Plan to Dump Green Registry
    by Robert Kropp

The computer giant reverses its decision to leave the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool registry, calling it a mistake after consumer backlash.

Last week, Apple gained considerable notoriety among environmentalists and consumers when it announced it will withdraw from the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT), a registry designed to mitigate the negative environmental and social impacts of electronics. Signatories to EPEAT agree to product designs that consume less energy and allow for end-of-life recycling.

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a member of EPEAT's advisory council, "EPEAT requires incorporating a minimum of 65 percent reusable or recyclable components, a take-back service and the reduction or elimination of toxins in packaging."

And in an excellent overview of sustainability in the electronics industry, Conrad MacKerron of As You Sow described EPEAT as "a useful product evaluation system developed by EPA, the electronics industry, and stakeholders to help purchasers evaluate the environmental attributes of hundreds of mainstream computer systems."

Apparently, Apple wanted to introduce unsustainable product designs to its laptops which would prevent disassembly for recycling. In a statement issued at the time of Apple's withdrawal, EPEAT expressed "regret" and the hope that Apple would reconsider its decision.

In a reversal noteworthy for occurring at a speed not normally associated with corporate decisions, Apple did just that within a week of its original announcement. In a statement, Senior Vice President Bob Mansfield wrote, "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." Calling the original decision "a mistake," Mansfield continued, "Starting today, all eligible Apple products are back on EPEAT."

In his response to Apple's reversal, EPEAT CEO Robert Frisbee offered "sincere thanks to the stakeholders whose strong support ensures EPEAT standards and system success."

"We look forward to Apple's strong and creative thoughts on ongoing standards development," Frisbee wrote. "The outcome must reward new directions for both design and sustainability, simultaneously supporting the environment and the market for all manufacturers' elegant and high-performance products."

During this proxy season, Apple was one of four large computer companies that responded to shareowner resolutions by agreeing to have their suppliers issue sustainability reports. Following the successful engagements, the New York City Office of the Comptroller withdrew all four proposals.


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