Re-EPEAT: Apple returns to environmental certification, posts open letter

Re-EPEAT: Apple returns to environmental certification, posts open letter

Apple has posted on open letter on their website, addressing concerns over their recent removal of the EPA's EPEAT certification from 39 Mac-related products, and announcing Apple would be returning to the EPEAT certifications. Senior Vice-President of Hardware Engineering, Bob Mansfield, writes on Apple.com:

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.

And:

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

While the EPEAT standard is old and doesn't even consider the majority of Apple's business, namely iPhones and iPads, even given Apple's previous statement on the removal, Apple's removal of EPEAT had caused problems for government and private organizations that require the certification as part of their procurement process.

It's odd that Apple would leave and return so quickly and publicly, but it did cause a massive amount of attention, and that could have been the intent. It's possible Apple caved to pressure, but it's also possible EPEAT and Apple came to some kind of understanding.

A quick perusal of Apple.com shows EPEAT hasn't only returned, but is now listed on the Retina MacBook Pro page, which didn't seem possible previously. That may indicate Apple managed to come out of this exchange ahead of where they were before.

As to the open letter, Apple has struggled at times with response-driven public relations, and quick move like this, at the executive team level, could show they're improving in that regard. Or it could show Apple needed a way to reclaim and redirect the attention quickly.

The author of the letter, Bob Mansfield, has previously announced his intention to retire from Apple, but his service to company and reputation lend weight to an open letter, without putting it on Tim Cook's desk, and without leaving it for his successor, Dan Riccio to stumble over on day one.

So ends a quick and curious news cycle. Anyone running out to buy a newly re-EPEATed Mac or peripheral?

UPDATE: EPEAT CEO Robert Frisbee has posted an open letter as well, saying in part:

We look forward to Apple’s strong and creative thoughts on ongoing standards development. 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.

An interesting question for EPEAT is how to reward innovations that are not yet envisioned with standards that are fixed at a point in time. Diverse goals, optional points awarded for innovations not yet described, and flexibility within specified parameters to make this happen are all on the table in EPEAT stakeholder discussions. And of course, timely standards development, as with newly created Imaging Equipment and Television standards, and the current refresh of the PC/Display standard, is critical as well.

In other words, wiggle room?

Source: Apple.com, EPEAT

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, Vector, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Re-EPEAT: Apple returns to environmental certification, posts open letter

8 Comments

We should be incredibly skeptical about Apple's desire to see these standards "upgraded to include advancements." Presumably, Apple would want those upgrades to be more compatible with what Apple has done over the years, otherwise, why bring it up as the issue was dying down? There is no advance Apple has made -- not in the rMPB, not in the iPad, and not in the iPhone -- that has any eye towards component recyclability, a specific measuring stick of EPEAT ratings. This is not a criticism, just a statement of Apple's design priorities.

And the market has obviously awarded Apple for their choices. And that, too, is fine. But watchdog organizations play a valuable role in calling out any corporation on the downside of those choices, creating a more informed public. When a company makes a call to "upgrade" a standard or "improve" one of these organizations after that organization criticizes them, it is *always* an attempt to water them down or bring the organization to heel.

And *that* is a lose/lose.

Question, even EPEAT has stated that their standards are outdated and do not take size (iPad, Kindle Fire, etc), and/or smartphones into the standard, how do you respond to that? Now I don't agree with the way Apple behaved, they should have said let's work together to revise or re-create the standard, so I challenge Apple now to pioneer and effort to make the needed changes.

Simple. If they are out of date, update them. Similarly, if you want iPad, Kindle Fire, and Smartphones rated, fine -- but they will *all* fail EPEAT standards, simply because they were not designed with component accessibility and upgradeability in mind, and never will be. Fair enough -- the only reason the MBP caused a stink is because they *used to be* EPEAT-acceptable, and now are not.

Apple could not say "let's work together" because their design decisions on all product lines (except maybe their desktops, but those have not seen real upgrades for years) have been away from accessibility and component recyclability -- two elements at EPEAT's very core. That is why we should be skeptical. While Apple's direction is fundamentally at odds with EPEAT, any call by Apple to update EPEAT standards can only be a call to weaken those standards to be more in compliance with Apple's choices.

That said, I suggested be *skeptical* -- not dismiss it outright. If Apple honestly sits down and figures out ways to make future rMBP more accessible and recyclable, I will be first to cheer them on. However, Apple has always adhered to its own vision, and I think it an order of magnitude more likely that they would try and water down those standards, rather than adapt their own designs even marginally, unless absolutely forced to it.

Apple lost a lot of face this week. Most consumers have no idea what EPEAT is or does but "knows" that it's a good thing for the environment. Apple's hubris led them to make a unilateral decision to leave instead of spending the capital to make a change towards the better in the eco-community. At the end of the day, they are still making poor eco choices by glueing their screens in place on new iPads and Macbooks, by soldering graphics cards and RAM, and making battery/hard drive replacement impossible for the average consumer. These are bad choices for Apple's eco image.

I'm really confused here. What is EPEAT? Is it just some tax that companies pay to a EPEAT to put their logo on the box? If it is some sort of environmental standard, Apple product should either make the standard or not, based on the characteristics of the device.

All this shows me is that EPEAT is some sort of extortion-based company which spends more money on PR campaigns than actually setting environmental standards.

That's exactly what it is. Extortion-based. Just like everything else involving the "green movement". It's a way to raise extra profit for those that push it (Gore) and raise taxes on those that buy in (consumers). No secret about it.

You both surprise me with this. Why couldn't it also be about the value of recycling vs landfills, toxic seepage, etc... perhaps in addition to those who have become a part of the system having a vested interest in it?