Given the iPhone Hiccup, Is Apple Still Green?

I was disappointed by recent reports that Apple refused to allow its iPhone to be included in the UK’s first green ranking scheme for mobile phones. I was even more disappointed that the appointed spokesperson refused to elaborate on the reasoning behind the decision. Since the rankings are based on manufacturers’ responses to 63 product related questions, I can only assume that the company is a bit paranoid and afraid to provide competitive information through participation.

Earlier this year, TriplePundit reported on Apple’s refusal to implement a board committee on sustainability and publish an annual sustainability report. Those decisions remain unchanged. Well, then, is Apple still Green?

We all remember the highly successful Greenpeace campaign, “Green My Apple” from 2007. After an impressive 9-month campaign, Steve Jobs posted “A Greener Apple”, announcing the company’s overall shift towards the greater green. At that time, Apple announced plans to phase out of the worst chemicals in its product range, Brominated Fire Retardants (BFRs) and Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) and increase recycling efforts. The company has done these things and more, but according to the May 2010 Greenpeace “Guide to Greener Electronics”, Apple scored a dismal 4.9/10, a decrease from the last report based on, you guessed it, a lack of transparency. Greenpeace helped motivate Apple towards greater stewardship, but clearly, there is still work to be done.

Of course, Apple has made some impressive moves. While the manufacturer still does not provide a traditional sustainability report, it does relate its sustainability data, available through its website, to the relevant Global Reporting Initiative indices. The GRI drivers were also used in the development of the 2009 Facilities report.

Apple’s 2010 Supplier Responsibility Report is packed full of information on Apple’s efforts to ensure its vendors offer environmental sustainability and fair labor conditions. Apparently, the company is expanding its supplier efforts. In 2007, only 37 vendor sites were audited, but that number rose to 102 in 2009.

Apple also deserves recognition for its expanded take-back and recycling program, which has now been extended to the Asia-Pacific region. The recycling rates have increased, year-over-year (41.9% in 2008 and 18% in 2007), but there are few details about how recycling figures are calculated.

So, what’s the verdict? Is Apple Green or is it all applesauce?

Leslie is a Sustainable MBA student at Green Mountain College. Study interests include sustainability, social responsibility and the power of corporate and non-profit partnerships to bring about positive change. Other areas of interest include social media, fundraising and public policy. She holds a Certificate in Nonprofit Management and is certified in the Global Reporting initiative for Sustainability Reporting. Additionally, she holds an MA in Organizational Management and a BS in Leisure Management. On the rare occasions when she is not studying, she enjoys writing, reading, running, nature walks and yoga. She hopes to use her skills, talents and education to make a positive impact with an environmentally and socially conscious organization. Feel free to connect with her on LinkedIn.