Apple said it was leaving EPEAT and pulled all its products from the environmental certification group's registry. That was just a few days ago. Now, Apple has admitted its error in judgment and has announced it will in fact stick with EPEAT standards.
“We’ve recently heard from many loyal Apple customers who were disappointed to learn that we had removed our products from the EPEAT rating system. I recognize that this was a mistake. Starting today, all eligible Apple products are back on EPEAT,” Bob Mansfield, SVP of Hardware Engineering at Apple, wrote in a letter on Apple's site.
Basically the letter claims that Apple is so far ahead of the game when it comes to making environmentally responsible devices that standards set by EPEAT lag behind, and should be even stronger. Well, Apple, you're right about that. But it doesn't mean that pulling your products from the registry is a smart move for the industry or for your reputation so we're glad you came to your senses.
The decision to leave EPEAT was originally made by Apple because the direction of their design didn't align with EPEAT standards for easy recyclability, which means the products can be easily taken apart with commonly available tools. So it's not necessarily about being so far ahead of the curve on designing for green, but actually that the company has been designing away from basic green principles and thus away from an ability to be certified by EPEAT. Perhaps the decision to stick with EPEAT after all will affect Apple's design direction in a positive way, at least when it comes to environmentally responsible construction.
Even though EPEAT doesn't have a lot of teeth to enforce standards set, it is still helpful that any standards are set at all that manufacturers are willing to abide by, that are measured and labeled in a way that consumers can understand and use as a tool for making purchasing decisions. A company like Apple blowing off these standards sent a terrible message to the consumer electronics industry and consumers themselves -- that design trumps responsibility for a company's impact on the planet and that green standards aren't important. The fact that consumers made enough noise to make Apple backpedal on the decision is an even bigger message -- that we require companies to have at least a shred of decency and consider the environment when making a product, and that we want it measured and managed.
We have a long, long way to go before we make sustainable electronics, but at least an industry leader like Apple has not turned its back on the effort of trying after all.
In all, we're pretty happy this hubbub happened, now that it's had a happy ending. All the publicity has brought a lot of attention to EPEAT and consumers who didn't know it even existed may now be aware of the environmental standards. It's always a good thing to bring more eyeballs to what's happening in green!