Not only does Apple not seem particularly interested in fixing the abhorrent working conditions along its supply lines, it doesn’t seem particularly interested in preserving the environment either. According to a report from the Wall Street Journal‘s CIO site, Apple has ended its participation in a nationwide program dedicaed to producing environmentally friendly technology, stating that the company’s design direction no longer comports with the program’s standards.
Last month Apple informed the NPO group EPEAT (Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool) that it would no longer subject its products to the group’s rating system and asked that all current Apple products that do sport the EPAET seal be removed from the group’s expansive registry.
While there is some speculation that Apple will produce its own green standards rating system in the near future, it’ll likely have the same effectiveness as Apple’s so-called Fair Labour Association, the firm it hired (and funded) to conduct an impartial audit of the working standards in Chinese factories.
The non-profit EPEAT group receives funding from the Environmental Protection Agency and considers itself to be “the leading global environmental rating system for electronic products, connecting purchasers to environmentally preferable choices and benefiting producers who demonstrate environmental responsibility and innovation.” Among a long list of criteria, EPEAT requires devices to be able to be easily disassembled in order to aid in the recycling of their components.
Until last month Apple had 39 of its products listed in the EPEAT registry, but due to changes in the production design for its products sporting the new advanced retina display that no longer met EPEAT standards, the company decided to end its involvement in the program altogether, lest questions be raised why some of its products were environmentally-friendly and some were not.
What is particularly interesting to me is that until it pulled its products from the EPEAT program it looked like Apple was proud of the products that did achieve high ratings. In fact, as the website The Verge points out, Apple is still touting the fact that its iMac computers have an EPEAT Gold rating on its website, although the official EPEAT seal has been removed.
Apple “said their design direction was no longer consistent with the EPEAT requirements,” CIO Journal quotes EPEAT CEO Robert Frisbee as saying. “They were important supporters and we are disappointed that they don’t want their products measured by this standard anymore.”
Simply put, the public has been told it wants (needs) retina displays, Apple wants to give the public those retina displays, but unfortunately those retina displays require production designs that no longer comport with national environmental standards for technology, so rather than have a green conscious customer choose an older iMac because of its EPEAT rating, why not just do away with the whole system and have that customer choose the company’s newer, flashier products.
Further, while I have no doubt that Apple will eventually develop its own environmental standards front company—one that has a rating system that Apple exceeds with every product—such platitudes will be about as effective as the company’s response to the working conditions crisis in China, where it hired its close partner, the FLA, to conduct audits and make the problem go away.
In the end one thing is abundantly clear to me about Apple and its products; so long as people continue to buy them and continue to not ask questions, the company will be more than happy to flout any and all concerns related to working standards and environmental protection. While I’m sure that Apple isn’t alone in this category, it’s distressing nonetheless.