Apple Removes Green Electronics Certification From Products
July 6, 2012, 6:49 PM ET
Joel Schectman WSJ Reporter
Apple has pulled its products off the U.S. government-backed registration of environmentally friendly electronics.
Apple asked EPEAT, the electronics standards setting group, to pull its 39 certified desktop computers, monitors and laptops, which included past versions of the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air, off the list of green products late last month, Robert Frisbee, CEO of EPEAT told CIO Journal. EPEAT, created through funding by the federal Environmental Protection Agency and manufacturers, awards products a seal to certify they are recyclable and designed to maximize energy efficiency and minimize environmental harm.
In order to meet the standards, recyclers need to be able to easily disassemble products, with common tools, to separate toxic components, like batteries. The standards were created jointly by manufacturers, including Apple, advocacy groups and government agencies. Frisbee says an Apple staff member told him at the end of June that the company no longer wanted Apple computers to be listed as EPEAT certified.
“They said their design direction was no longer consistent with the EPEAT requirements,” Frisbee said. The company did not elaborate, Frisbee said. “They were important supporters and we are disappointed that they don’t want their products measured by this standard anymore.”
The news complicates the work of CIOs at educational institutions where Apple has a strong presence. Schools often push IT departments to make environmentally sound electronics purchases, as do an increasing number of corporations. But now even older models of Apple equipment are no longer certified.
An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment, but referred to Apple’s website which contains reports on the environmental impact of its products. Apple offers several recycling programs through its stores and website.
One of Apple’s newest products, the MacBook Pro with a high-resolution “Retina” display, was nearly impossible to fully disassemble, said Kyle Wiens, co-founder of iFixit.com, a website that provides directions for users to repair their own machines. The battery was glued to the case, and the glass display was glued to its back. The product, released just a month ago, had not been submitted for EPEAT certification, according to the organization.
Frisbee said that the structure of that laptop would have made it ineligible for certification. “If the battery is glued to the case it means you can’t recycle the case and you can’t recycle the battery,” Frisbee said.
Apple was putting design first in an effort to make products smaller and have batteries last longer, said Shaw Wu an analyst at Sterne Agee. “They are not trying to purposely make it hard to open, they are just trying to pack as much as they can into a small space–it’s a design decision,” Wu said.
Many corporations like Ford, HSBC, and Kaiser Permanente require their CIOs to purchase computers from sources that are EPEAT certified, said Sarah O’Brien director of outreach for EPEAT. And the U.S. government requires that 95% of the electronics it purchases be EPEAT certified.
In 2010, the last year the survey was conducted, 222 out of the 300 American universities with the largest endowments asked their IT departments to give preference to EPEAT certified computers. Around 70 of the schools required EPEAT certification for electronics purchases, according to O’Brien.
But though Apple still gets 10%-15% of its revenue from educational organizations, according to Wu, an increasing part of its product mix is made up of iPhones and iPads, which are not currently certifiable under EPEAT.
Wu said he believes Apple will likely soon create an alternate standard for its own products. But in the meantime he believes companies are likely to still buy the products.
“At the end of the day in a business it’s really about what works,” Wu said.