Apple Says No, Then Yes, to IEEE Green Standard

The tech giant flip-flops on following an IEEE standard

23 July 2012

Is Apple green or isn’t it? The way it has been acting lately would have anyone confused. At the end of June, the company announced that none of its products would be submitted for Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) certification. This would remove all Apple products from the standardized green ratings system used by all U.S. federal agencies, which identifies products that are environmentally friendly. The IEEE 1680.1 standard, soon to be revised, is the basis for EPEAT’s ratings and provides criteria for the design and performance of devices to reduce their environmental impact.

People were not pleased with Apple’s decision, and angry customers filled comment sections with complaints. Apple listened, and on 13 July changed its mind and said it would work hard to meet the requirements of IEEE 1680.1.

“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,” wrote Apple’s Senior Vice President of Hardware Engineering, Bob Mansfield, in a letter to customers on the company’s website.  “I recognize this was a mistake. Starting today, all eligible Apple products are back on EPEAT.”

Meeting the requirements of IEEE 1680.1 will mean several changes for Apple. One is that products must have an “easy disassembly of external enclosure.” That means it must be simple for someone to remove the case using “commonly available tools or by hand,” according to the standard. But Apple uses proprietary screws for its new Macbooks and iPhones, making it difficult* for someone to remove the case without using a special tool. That’s just one of several design changes the company will need to make to comply with the standard, according to an article at Betanews.com.

The flip-flop has left many confused; unsure whether to be pleased Apple changed its mind or still upset it had originally not planned to adhere to the green standard. I’m not sure what Apple was expecting would happen after its initial announcement. Surely the company should have predicted that environmentally aware customers wouldn’t be pleased.

What I find most interesting about the situation is that this certainly wasn’t the first time Apple had made a decision that angered droves of people. But Apple seemed to have no problem ignoring complaints in the past. Angry commenters swarmed message boards when Apple continued its exclusive partnerships with cellphone carriers year after year. In the United States, AT&T was the sole iPhone provider from its launch in 2007 until 2011 when Verizon and Sprint struck deals with the company to sell the popular smartphone. In Europe, iPhone exclusivity ended in 2009, when Apple’s contract with O2 expired.

What do you think of Apple’s flip-flop? And how important is it for tech companies to go green with their devices?

 

*This post has been corrected

Photo: iStockphoto

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