Apple rejoins EPEAT, but says standards must catch up to innovation

Government agencies, schools and universities might not have to give up their Apple products after all.

After hearing complaints from customers and getting its products dumped by the city of San Francisco, the company has resubmitted its products to a green-computing certification program that many government and education organizations adhere to, while saying that green rating systems need to catch up with products like Apple’s.

In a letter on Apple’s site, Bob Mansfield, vice president for hardware engineering, called the decision to pull the company’s products from the Green Electronics Council’s Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) program a “mistake,” and said Apple was getting back into the program.

Related coverage:

Apple quits green IT program, putting government sales at risk

He also defended the company’s environmental record, writing that “much of our progress has come in areas not yet measured by EPEAT,” and that the IEEE 1680.1, the Conformity Assessment Protocols used by EPEAT, “could be a much stronger force for protecting the environment if it were upgraded to include advancements like these.”

In a response on the EPEAT site, CEO Robert Frisbee acknowledged Apple’s position, writing, “An interesting question for EPEAT is how to reward innovations that are not yet envisioned with standards that are fixed at a point in time.”

The outcome is good news for any public-sector organization that relies on Apple desktops, laptops and monitors that are included in the program. Currently iPhones and iPads are exempt because EPEAT doesn’t have standards yet for smart phones and tablets.

The Federal Acquisition Regulations, for example, require that 95 percent of all agency equipment purchases comply with EPEAT. Thousands of other organizations -- including states, cities, counties, universities and major corporations -- also follow the standard.

Apple pulled its products from the program in late June, and after news got around, San Francisco announced it was dumping Apple products. It was a largely symbolic gesture -- Apple products account for only $45,000 of the city’s $200 million IT budget -- but, like the complaints from other customers, it got the company’s attention.

The kerfuffle started with the new MacBook Pro with Retina display. The repair site iFixit took one apart and found that the battery was glued to its frame so tightly that it couldn’t be removed without the risk of puncture. Frisbee, at that point, said the MacBook Pro wouldn’t pass EPEAT’s standards because the battery and other components couldn’t be recycled.

Apple responded by pulling 39 products from the registry.

With Apple back in the fold, both Mansfield and Frisbee said their organizations will be working together on standards development.

Apple has all along defended its environment friendliness. Mansfield pointed to its work in removing toxins from its products, replacing plastics with recyclable materials and its reporting on its products’ greenhouse gas emissions. Apple’s products all also exceed the Energy Star 5.2 government standard for energy efficiency. “No one else in our industry can make that claim,” he wrote.

EPEAT’s Frisbee said his organization was willing to work on evolving standards. “Diverse goals, optional points awarded for innovations not yet described, and flexibility within specified parameters to make this happen are all on the table in EPEAT stakeholder discussions,” he wrote.


About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.


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