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Summary:

Greenpeace released the 12th edition of its Guide to Greener Electronics today (PDF), with Apple falling somewhere between tangerine and burnt orange. For those who take the rating seriously, Apple scored 4.7 out of 10, unchanged from last time, though the company slipped from 10th to […]

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Greenpeace released the 12th edition of its Guide to Greener Electronics today (PDF), with Apple falling somewhere between tangerine and burnt orange. For those who take the rating seriously, Apple scored 4.7 out of 10, unchanged from last time, though the company slipped from 10th to 11th place in the ranking of 18 companies.

The guide is based on three “demands” (their word) by Greenpeace: eliminating toxic substances, e-waste recycling and energy usage. Those demands are then broken down into four sub-demands, which are ranked: bad, partially bad, partially good, and good. Overall, Apple scores mostly in the middle, but with several bad grades.

The single, wholly positive ranking Apple receives is for the timeline on phasing out nasty PVCs and BFRs from manufacturing. As Apple and the Environment notes, “Printed circuit boards, electrical components, mechanical parts, and internal cables are BFR-free and PVC-free.” However, Greenpeace even takes issue with that claim because Apple has “unreasonably high threshold limits for BFRs and PVC in products that are allegedly PVC-/BFR-free.”

Greenpeace criticizes Apple strongly on e-waste recycling, while at the same time noting the company has extended coverage of its recycling program to Asia, and that Apple has set a goal of a 50 percent recycling rate by 2010. The main problem, according to Greenpeace, is a matter of disclosure on the part of Apple. On the issue of energy, Apple again scores poorly. First, because the company does not report on GHG (greenhouse gasses) emissions, Apple fails. Second, because the company does not report on renewable energy usage, Apple fails.

If you don’t see a pattern here, what it comes down to is that Greenpeace grades companies on words as much as action. Apple is a secretive company by nature. Considering how confrontational Greenpeace has been with Apple in the past, it’s hardly a surprise that Apple makes no effort to meet the “demands” of Greenpeace.

The real question here is why Greenpeace focuses so much on Apple. Both Dell and HP sell far more computers than Apple. Both have dropped in ranking, according to the latest guide, and both now score lower than Apple. Does this mean we will see protestors at the headquarters of HP? Will there be advertising campaigns about a “yellow” Dell? If Greenpeace followed its own guide, that’s what should happen.

However, the difference between Apple and every company in the guide is brand. Apple is easily the most popular brand. By focusing on Apple negatively, Greenpeace can theoretically threaten Apple’s brand popularity. Further, any changes Apple makes because of pressure from Greenpeace could then be leveraged against companies that actually pollute more than Apple. Finally, attacking the most popular company raises awareness of Greenpeace itself, not that the environmental organization would ever be so self-serving.

Keep going green, Apple, but keep going without Greenpeace.

  1. More useless PR so they can try to prove they are worthy of donations.

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  2. Including the word “Apple” in their press releases gets more people to read them, and more web sites to republish their crap. If you stop republishing their crap simply because they reference Apple, they might stop doing it.

    And yes, it’s stupid that Greenpeace lays claim to all progress Apple makes, but also blames them for harming the environment by simply existing.

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  3. Howie Isaacks Thursday, July 2, 2009

    Greenpeace needs to suck it. Apple should not pander to them. It only lends them credibility. I’ve seen Greenpeace in action before when I visited Scotland while serving in the Navy. The campsite that they erected outside of the Faslane naval base in Scotland was filthy. They harry submarines entering and leaving ports while driving broken down, filthy diesel powered boats. The submarines they’re protesting are cleaner than their boats. When I saw that, I totally wrote them off as being credible. In the end, it’s up to the consumer to recycle the products that they buy. Apple has no control over anything except the materials that the use. The last time I checked, Apple is using a lot of aluminum and glass. They’ve also rid their whole product line of a lot of potential pollutants. Greenpeace is a sham organization just trying to get more attention.

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  4. “Apple” is only the most popular company on this website, not in the world at large.

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  5. I’m not sure I believe these Greenpeace reports are necessarily credible, and they probably do have more to do with attention grabbing than with cold hard fact, but at the very least, they generate press about environmental responsibility for tech corporations that might not otherwise be held accountable in that arena. Anything that pushes any of these guys to build greener products is probably a good thing in the end.

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  6. Who cares?

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    1. Howie Isaacks Thursday, July 2, 2009

      Yes! Thank you!!!

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  7. Encouraging technology companies to go green is a positive, but their are real negatives associated with certain tactics, like issuing demands. There is also the issue of allocating resources on the part of Greenpeace. Again, why spend time, money, and effort going after the biggest polluters, rather than the biggest brand?

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  8. Encouraging technology companies to go green is a positive, but there are real negatives associated with certain tactics, like issuing demands. There is also the issue of allocating resources on the part of Greenpeace. Again, why not spend time, money, and effort going after the biggest polluters, rather than the biggest brand?

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    1. i think it’s all about image. The image Apple wants to create for itself is way greener of how it actually seems to be – according to Greenpeace, which i firmly trust – while HP and Dell aren’t supposed to be *that much* eco-friendly, or at least it has never been part of their brand image.

      this should also mean that the typical Apple user is more sensitive to ecological questions., maybe, or at least it is supposed to be, therefore all this attention.

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  9. I just can’t believe what I am reading here. But somehow I understand… probably most of the posts here come from the US, it seems that the environment isn’t really a concern, or at least not out of it boarders. Seems no one gets the point in here!! Although Greenpeace can easily be criticized for some of its past and extreme actions and stances, I just want to ask you all something: What do you think this earth would be if there wasn’t any environmentalist pushing industrialists to go greener? We would probably swim in our own S***! It’s all a matter of battle, and honestly I would rather have Greenpeace whining about the environment than having lead in my water or nasty chemicals in my hands while using my computer!!… By the way, I’m using a Mac so I have to problem criticizing the brands that I like too.

    And one more thing… a small correction to the last post: the biggest polluters are usually known to be the the biggest brands, that’s no secret!! And you know what… the Biggest brands are from the US, which by the way are the biggest polluters on the planet.

    I leave you with these thoughts and I recommend you to see a bit further than your noses before posting crap.

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  10. Torbjørn Vik Lunde Thursday, July 2, 2009

    “The real question here is why Greenpeace focuses so much on Apple.”

    Because Apple is a leader, not in market-share but in innovation and ideas. If Apple does something you can count on someone else copying it in some form. (Even if it’s a bad idea.)

    I also think it’s good that they try to get information more in the open. How can we really know that companies are environmentally friendly if they if we don’t show numbers prooving it.

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  11. Anybody who has had the opportunity to work with Greenpeace activists and observe them up close knows that they’re a sham group that does not deserve the accolades and respect the media is all too happy to give to them. Their motives are political and they go after companies that offer the chance for greater publicity and thus more donations rather than really doing their best to save the environment. Their stance is also explicitly anti-West and anti-industrial.

    As for Paul, and his demand that this site stop ‘posting crap’, I suggest you take some of your own advice mate. The US is not the world’s biggest polluter, China is (that includes GHGs), and moreover Apple is pretty much non-existent on the list of companies that produce the most pollutants.

    And it’s flawed to believe we have environmentalists to thank for not ‘swimming in our own S***’. What’s really happened is that as countries have grown wealthy (a process that requires a dirty and polluting industrial stage), their populations have not only become more discerning, more involved in politics and more likely to demand certain environmental conditions, but companies have been able to transition to more expensive but more hi-tech and efficient manufacturing processes that require less people and pollute less. Their economies also shift towards the greater production of consumer devices and towards a focus on services, both of which result in a reduction in industrial-level pollution. That’s why the air quality in London is at its best level in 400 years, despite having been heavily polluted during the Industrial Revolution.

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  12. While I tend to agree with the statements about Greenpeace above I have to wonder about Apple being “secretive by nature” and what this means with regards to things like this.

    It’s one thing to be secretive about your new products – but about how much renewable energy you use, GHG emissions? Not disclosing such information only makes people think you have something to hide IMHO.

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  13. I’ve been an ecology activist since the original Earth Day. I’ve never made a religion of my concerns or beliefs. Most especially, I reject the sort of fundamentalist ideology that demands everyone stop whatever they’re doing and run their lives and businesses according to the “Word”. That’s what politics is for – and that legitimately includes pressurizing corporate policies.

    But, the holier than thou crowd – frankly – makes me fart in their general direction.

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  14. You Apple people need to learn to take some criticism. You don’t have to attack the credibility of anyone that says something bad about Apple. Are Apple products the best-of-class? Yes, obviously. Are they prefect? Hell no!

    Get over it. If Apple’s products are made even more environmentally friendly because of this report, what’s the problem?

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  15. What do you think this earth would be if there wasn’t any environmentalist pushing industrialists to go greener?

    Why do you think it would be any different? Apparently those “industrialists” you decry don’t live in the Earth they’re supposedly destroying.

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  16. Charles,

    To answer your ‘real question’:

    “Does this mean we will see protestors at the headquarters of HP?”

    The press release for the Greenpeace Guide to Greener Electronics led with failure of HP, Dell and Lenovo to stick to their commitment:

    “The latest edition of Greenpeace’s “Guide to Greener Electronics” ranking, released today, reveals that the world’s biggest PC makers – Hewlett Packard (HP), Dell and Lenovo – have failed to improve their low scores.”

    Followed by the pressure we are putting on HP:

    HP has already received a public reminder of the need to re-prioritize toxic chemical phase out, when Greenpeace activists returned “toxic laptops” to the company’s Chinese headquarters last week. Today, staff at HP’s Dutch headquarters were greeted on arrival by Greenpeace activists confronting them with pictures of the pollution that HP’s toxic products cause in Asia and Africa. Greenpeace will continue to escalate pressure on HP and other companies who fail to live up to their voluntary commitments.

    http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/press-center/releases2/greener-electronics-companie

    The images of these HP protests are also prominent on our website:

    http://www.greenpeace.org/international/news/hp-lenovo-and-dell-010709

    On toxics phase out we are holding up Apple’s positive action as an example to their competitors who are not making good progress, such as HP.

    Tom Dowdall
    Greenpeace International

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  17. [...] Apple, that debate has often been with Greenpeace. The environmental organization’s periodic reports on the green efforts of technology companies have often graded Apple poorly. In the BusinessWeek [...]

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  18. [...] (and public) move recently to become more transparent in its carbon accounting process (following persistent criticism from Greenpeace and other environmental groups). For the first time last month Apple unveiled its carbon footprint, [...]

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