Greening Apple and Greenpeace Likes It

Apple and Greenpeace have had their disagreements about how environmentally friendly Apple should be.  Greenpeace has been a critic of Apple urging them to become a better company, environmentally and CSR-wise.  We call this instructive churn.  Instructive churn is when companies learn from stakeholder criticism by internalizing the criticism and making positive changes.  In essence a negative becomes a positive.  Two recent developments highlight Greenpeace and Apple being linking in instructive churn. 

Greenpeace regularly issues its “Guide to Greener Electronics.”  According to Greepeace, “The guide ranks the 18 top manufacturers of personal computers, mobile phones, TVs and games consoles according to their policies on toxic chemicals, recycling and climate change.”  The guide began publishing in 2006.  This year Apple improved and is listed in the Better category and fifth overall.  Here is the entry for Apple from the 2010 report released recently at the 2010 CES.  The CES attracts the attention of the electronics industry so the trade show offers a great opportunity to publicize the report:

“Apple continues its climb up the ranking from 11th place in v.12 to 9th in v.13 and is now in 5th place, with a score of 5.1 points, up from 4.9. Apple does best on the toxic chemicals criteria, where it scores most of its points. It scores substantially less on waste and energy. In this evaluation, Apple wins and loses some points on toxic chemicals, but gains on energy. All Apple products are now free of PVC and BFRs, with the exception of PVC-free power cords in countries where their safety certification process is still ongoing. For this Apple continues to score full marks (doubled). The tightened C1 criterion now requires companies not only to have a chemicals policy informed by the precautionary principle, but also to show support for bans on PVC vinyl plastic and brominated/chlorinated flame retardants (CFRs/BFRs) during the revision of the EU’s RoHS Directive (Restriction of Hazardous Substances in electronics). Apple gains a point for lobbying the EU institutions, but for full marks it needs to provide a public position on its support for immediate restrictions in RoHS 2.0 on organo- chlorine and bromine compounds. It also needs to clarify its stance regarding the position of the trade federation TechAmerica on further immediate restrictions and in particular PVC and BFRs. Apple loses a point for providing even less information (on its updated web-pages) about its supply chain communications than before. This criterion evaluates disclosure of information flow in the supply chain. Apple also loses a point for minimal information about its future toxic chemical phase-out plans, reducing its communication on this subject on its updated web-pages.”

Apple and others have spread the good news around the Internet.  For instance, see the story at (  The message should disseminated.  Apple has made progress addressing environment deficiencies.  The report shows positive actions being taken by Apple and praised by a critical stakeholder (Greenpeace).  As one online source noted:

 “Despite the two companies’ somewhat spotted history together, Greenpeace has awarded Apple four giant gold stars for its efforts to rid its products of brominated flame retardants (BFR) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). (BFRs and PVC have long been on Greenpeace’s hit list of environmentally unfriendly chemicals.) In fact, Apple received a large gold star—the highest rating Greenpeace gave out—in each of the four categories rated in its latest report: desktops, portables, cell phones, and displays. Of the six companies with products in all four categories, Apple was the only one to receive a large gold star in any category, and, in general, it blew away the other five. Dell, Lenovo, Samsung, and LGE received only one small gold star each.”

The second piece of news is that Apple is looking to make solar power a better reality for its products.  Apple has been working with the idea since 2006 but the new patent suggests solar for you iPod and iPhone might be getting closer.  A stronger solar move would strengthen Apple’s green credentials and move it to the front of CSR in the electronics industry.

Questions to Consider

  1.  Why is the Greenpeace evaluation of Apple’s environmental record so important to Apple’s CSR efforts?
  2. How is the Internet helping to build awareness of Apple’s CSR?
  3. Could the solar story hurt Apple if the solar technology does not appear within the next year?  Why or why not?
  4. How do Greenpeace’s past criticisms of Apple make their approval of Apple even more valuable to Apple?
  5. Of what value is the fact that the ranking allow Apple to compare itself to its competitors on environmental issues?
  6. Visit Apple’s environment site.  What do you like and dislike about the site?

3 Responses to Greening Apple and Greenpeace Likes It

  1. craig resnick says:

    i am, quite frankly, surprised that apple does not get more flack for its non green commercial policies.
    For me, it is not about them taking back products to recycle, it is about them making non green products in the first place.
    The two most annoying apple products for me are in their
    highly commercially successful mac books and i phones, each of which could be easily modified if apple gave a damn about the environment
    rather than selling more units.
    First is the magnetically attached power cord for the mac. It is poorly made and the cord seems to break right where it attaches to the computer. One cannot replace just the length of wire between the
    transformer and the computer. Instead one has to replace the whole unit, necessitating all of the pollution incumbent in its production and recycling.
    The I Phone is another diliberately non green product. It is the only cell phone I am aware of that does not allow the user to replace the battery.
    Instead, one must buy another phone resulting in the same environment secondary to the unit sales attitude.
    More amazing still is that Apple does not get any flack for producing most of its products in China.

  2. eddie says:

    nice and very informative writeup keep it up.

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