In his latest Byte of the Apple column for BusinessWeek, Arik Hesseldahl dissects the latest efforts by Greenpeace to “shame Apple into taking what it considers corrective action on environmental practices.”
Greenpeeace has been focusing on Apple because of how the company rates on the group’s environmental score card, but Hesseldahl points out that their scoring is suspect.
Let’s start with the issue of PVC. Apple and Dell still use it in certain parts, notably the plastic insulators on internal cabling. Still, Dell gets more credit on the PVC issue. Why? Because Dell has said it plans to stop using PVC by 2009. This even though, given its volume, Dell is flooding the world with far more PVC than Apple. Dell shipped 39 million PCs in 2006, more than seven times Apple’s 5.3 million, according to researcher IDC. Apple, too, has committed to eliminating PVC but hasn’t set a definitive date.
So if Apple is no worse than any other computer manufacturer in regards to the environment, why is it being singled out by Greenpeace? Hesseldahl thinks it’s due to Apple’s unique image and high profile.
Apple makes for a convenient target, given its splashy, event-based marketing efforts, slick TV ads, big profits, and brand cachet among young, affluent consumers who tend to identify themselves with left-leaning causes like environmentalism. And let’s face it, Steve Jobs, the vegetarian with a penchant for generous donations to Democratic politicians, doesn’t discourage the connection. Apple ads have featured such liberal icons as John Lennon, Cesar Chavez, and Jane Goodall. Grabbing a Democratic greenie like Gore as a director on the heels of his work as a special consultant for Google (GOOG) was a no-brainer.
Apple may get more attention in the press than it deserves, but it’s clearly a double-edged sword, bringing it undeserved attention from political action groups more interested in publicity than facts.