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Apple Appears Green, May Be More Greenish-Brown

Consumers may be perceiving Apple as a more ecologically friendly company than they actually are, according to a new report by marketing research firm TDG.

Results of a survey of randomly selected participants found that roughly 30% believed Apple was the most environmentally friendly tech brand, with Dell and HP the next most popular choices, at 21% and 15% respectively.  The results are somewhat baffling, since Apple does not do nearly as much as some other companies to paint themselves as a so-called “green” company.

Survey participants were also just plain wrong about Apple.  While it has recently improved its standings in Greenpeace’s “Guide to Green Electronics,” it still falls behind Dell and HP based on the environmental organization’s comprehensive ranking system.  In the inaugural study in August of 2006, Jobs’ baby scored a paltry 2.7 out of a possible 10.  September 2008’s results saw Apple’s score climb to 4.1, which is still behind LG, Toshiba, Dell and HP.  Apple was listed as having improved in some categories, but still isn’t quite up to snuff on energy management and recycling.

So how does Apple get to be the greenest without actually getting the best scores or engineering their image through huge green-specific ad campaigns?  According to the author of the TDG study, Michael Greeson:

Chalk it up to effective marketing and the brand’s aura of simplicity in both design and usage.  In today’s market, aesthetics in branding and design matter when it comes to portraying a pro-environment message. Independent of whether Apple’s products and services are actually environmentally friendly, consumers perceive them as such. While other CE vendors may have to invest a fortune to improve their green image, Apple doesn’t seem to have this problem.

In other words, Apple’s branding seems to be subtly, inherently green.  It’s true that consumers tend to to cluster environmental responsibility with contemporary, clean, simple brands.  Apple is perhaps the best example in computer electronics, but Ikea demonstrates the same effect in the home furnishing sector.

When marketing trend analysts, and even some environmentalists, are forecasting an end to the effectiveness of green marketing, Apple may represent the green company of the future.  Commercials with voiceovers about carbon emission reduction are beginning to fall on deaf ears, but a company that appears casually environmental seems to strike a chord with those resistant to the in-your-face approach.  So how best to capitalize on this consumer misconception?  Bottom line is that Apple should just continue doing what they do, offering more services like iPod battery disposal and reducing their ecological footprint, but without showing off.  It’s the “Meh” approach to green marketing, and it sure seems to beat wrapping everything in bamboo.

4 Responses to “Apple Appears Green, May Be More Greenish-Brown”

  1. Greenpeace scrutinizes Apple just to be attention whores (they admitted it themselves). If there’s one toxin in Apple’s iPod’s wires, Greenpeace freaks out. If Dell has 12 toxins in their wires but promises to remove them in “January 2010,” they are praised for “swift action.”

  2. Apple doesn’t send all the required information to Greenpeace to raise the number. Nintendo sends them nothing at all. The test that they use and the rating are based on receiving all the manufacturing information. So if you base your “Green” feelings from Greenpeace it’s not the whole story anyway.

  3. The writer seems to know nothing about the genesis of the Greenpeace Green Guide. From Roughly Drafted, May 10, 2008.

    “That certainly wasn’t the case when Greenpeace blew out its nearly identical “greener guide” metrics last year and the year prior, both of which spent all their focus on whether or not staffers could google together commitments to stop using specific chemicals or to advertise takeback goals. Greenpeace ranked Apple poorly for not advertising what it had already done, and congratulated HP and Dell for promising to do those things in the future, even while those companies were putting out more toxins per computer, shipping out far more instant eWaste PCs with shorter usable lifespans, and recycling less of its own products. It then turned out that HP wasn’t even living up to its vaunted commitments.

    The Greenpeace Greener Guide was a complete joke. Rather than providing useful information to help consumers, it served up misinformation assembled by corporations that were shoveling money at Greenpeace. Further, the report’s attack on Apple was based on false premises and statistics invented with poor methodology.”