In the latest example of Apple going green, the technology company has launched a revised and expanded web site, Apple and the Environment.
While the company, to date, has largely focused on reporting the environmental impact of its manufacturing processes, the updated site also examines Apple products over their entire life cycle, including consumer usage. In conjunction with the site launch, Peter Burrows of BusinessWeek reports on Apple’s effort to change the “terms of debate” over the environment.
For 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 article, Steve Jobs was his usual candid and caustic self, saying that “I thought Greenpeace was being very unfair with us at the beginning, and that they were using us to get visibility.” While that may be true (I think it is), more objectively, one of the many problems with the methodology Greenpeace uses in its reports is that it takes into account future commitments as well as actions in the present.
Another issue Apple has with some green rankings is the exclusive focus on the operations of a company, often without even taking into account the environmental impact of the products. Jobs likened this to “asking a cigarette company how green their office is.” To that end, Apple is coming clean on its true carbon footprint, and it’s a big one.
For Apple, that’s 10.2 million tons of carbon emissions annually, more than half the the company’s total output. In contrast, HP and Dell, both far larger companies in terms of manufacturing and numbers of products sold, report smaller emissions totals. For HP, that’s 8.4 million tons annually, while Dell reports a seemingly miraculous 471,000 tons. Of course, neither company counts the emissions totals of products in the hands of consumers, and that is a big deal. Apple’s decision to report those totals “could completely change how companies are evaluated,” according to Alexandra McPherson of the environmental group Clean Production Action.
Of course, it remains to be seen whether Greenpeace will give Apple credit where credit is due. After all, how much publicity can Greenpeace get from badgering a beleaguered company like Dell?