Last week my colleague covered Apple's withdrawal from EPEAT. Shortly after his report, the city of San Francisco confirmed its purchasing policy requires city buyers to purchase EPEAT products - meaning no more Apple products for city business. Several education and government bodies were expected to follow suit. Prior to these announcements, Apple did not seem very concerned about losing the certification. Now, however, Apple has done an about-face and come back to EPEAT for those products which meet the EPEAT guidelines.
Apple's sustainability has been under speculation including its reluctance to disclose many of its practices.
The main reason the company pulled out in the first place was because its new Macbook Pro with the retina screen could not be easily recycled. One of the conditions to be EPEAT-certified is ease of recyclability of old electronics.
According to a letter on Apple's website by Bob Mansfield, SVP of Hardware Engineering: "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."
EPEAT only weighs in on product sustainability for existing products, meaning the company's ability to shift future design decisions is limited. However, it is a useful guide to help consumers make purchasing decisions. It is ultimately a consumer guideline and the fact that Apple customers made enough noise to cause the company to backpedal on its decision is a lot to think about.
Apple has assigned itself EPEAT's gold rating for the new MacBook Pro with Retina display, which has raised some eyebrows, given the latest model's lack of recyclability was one of the reasons for the break up with EPEAT in the first place. Time will tell if the certification level sticks.
As an industry leader, Apple is setting a bad example by not adhering to the industry's most well known standard. The fact that Apple's consumers cared enough not only about the brand, but also the brand perception, says a lot about their loyal consumer base.
This is something that the company needs to think twice about in the future before it makes rash moves like dropping out of EPEAT. For its part, Apple displayed remarkable instinct deciding to listen to its customers. That is stakeholder engagement at its best.
Akhila is the Founding Director of GreenDen Consultancy which is dedicated to offering business analysis, reporting and marketing solutions powered by sustainability and social responsibility. Based in the US, Europe, and India, the GreenDen's consultants share the best practices and innovation from around the globe to achieve real results. She has previously written about CSR and ethical consumption for Justmeans and hopes to put a fresh spin on things for this column. As an IEMA certified CSR practitioner, she hopes to highlight a new way of doing business. She believes that consumers have the immense power to change 'business as usual' through their choices. She is a Graduate in Molecular Biology from the University of Glasgow, UK and in Environmental Management and Law. In her free-time she is a voracious reader and enjoys photography, yoga, travelling and the great outdoors. She can be contacted via Twitter @aksvi and also http://www.thegreenden.net