As I reported last week, Apple faced significant backlash regarding its controversial decision to withdraw from the EPEAT environmental standards program, a global rating system that grades the recyclability, and thus environmental impact, of technology. Feeling the heat from public sector, private sector, and general public customers, it looks like Apple has done a quick about-face, withdrawing its request to leave the EPEAT program.
Initially underestimating the public’s impassioned response, Apple announced earlier this week that all products that were listed on the EPEAT registry will return immediately, as clearly the company needed to spin this story in such a way where it still came out looking like it cared anything at all about the environment.
While I’m sure Apple’s quick turnaround will satiate many of its disgruntled clients, I for one am still dismayed that such green issues get more attention than the social justice atrocities Apple is still committing overseas, saying nothing for the fact that despite its return to EPEAT, every new Apple product still fails to make the environmental grade.
The difference between the inhuman working conditions and the current environmental standards controversies has become increasingly clear to me over the past week. It really has nothing to do with public outcry, but instead the amount of pressure placed on Apple in either situation is almost solely dependent on its corporate (specifically its government) clients.
Never in my multi-year coverage of the ongoing social justice crisis along Apple’s supply lines have I seen one company threaten to end its relationship with Apple, the simple fact being those corporate clients have always been sufficiently distanced from that ongoing ethical conundrum.
The same, however, cannot be said in regards to environmental concerns, as the majority of companies, particularly in North America, pride themselves on adhering to environmental standards. This means that if it comes to light that any of a given company’s practices or products are not green, it’s immediately a public relations concern. So rather than be accused of using harmful products, companies immediately pass the buck to Apple.
By the same token, if ever these Apple clients (again particularly its government clients) were accused of associating with a company (Apple) who is exploiting human beings to create its technological wonders, you better believe Apple would change the working conditions in China tomorrow. The reality, however, is that such a connection is often hard to make.
That said, for a company that seems to relish the opportunity to roll out its environmental bona fides, it really comes as no surprise that Apple is trumpeting loudly its return to EPEAT, once again boasting about how it works hard to exceed the current rating system. So how will Apple deal with the fact that all of its new products featuring the retina display still fail to make the grade? Simple answer, they’ll probably change the system.
While Apple does have the option of applying for an extension for the products that have so far failed to meet EPEAT’s criteria, the more likely course of action is that Apple will continue to lobby for those standards to be lowered changed, meaning that soon the public will be placated by the fact that an EPEAT gold rating will appear beside every Apple product, forgetting that those products will still be poisoning Mother Earth for generations to come.