A little Deeper Into Greenpeace's Response

As you may have heard by now Steve Jobs intends to make Apple greener. In an open letter Mr. Jobs let the public at large know what his company has been doing, is doing, and will be doing to reduce or eliminate anti-green chemicals and processes from Appleis product line.

If what Mr. Jobs says is true then Apple was already doing a fine job in cleaning up its act, and with the enhancements to existing programs and the institution of new programs, Apple should establish itself as an industry leader for environmental concerns. Or so you would think.

In response to Mr. Jobsi letter, Greenpeace sent a letter to the media in which it applauded Appleis actions and stated that, "The announcement [Appleis open letter] would elevate Appleis score on Greenpeaceis iGuide to Greener Electronics,i which will be updated in June, to approximately a 5 (from a previous score of 2.7) out of 10 points.

While a nearly 100% increase in the score is great news, Apple still compares poorly to Dell, HP and other tech companies. So, I contacted Greenpeace and asked Rick Hind, Legislative Director of Greenpeaceis Toxics Campaign, why Apple was originally rated so low and how the new rating was made.

"The short answer," Mr. Hind told me, "is that Apple previously received partial credit in 7 out of the 9 areas we evaluated. The Jobs announcement now earns them full credit in three of these areas (PVC1, BFR2 Phase Outs & Reporting on Recycling) and additional partial credit in one area (Chemicals Management).

"Based on the Jobs statement, Appleis score improved in four categories:

  • Chemicals Management; they improved by 1 point (they already had 1 out of 3 possible points)
  • Timeline for PVC Phaseout; they improved by 2 points (they already had 1 out 3 possible points)
  • Timeline for BFR Phaseout; they improved by 3 points (they had 0 out of 3 possible points)
  • Reporting on Amounts Recycled; they improved by 1 point (they already had 2 out of 3 possible points)

"On the 30 point scale their total improvements came to 7 which when divided by 3 for the 10 point scale = 2.3. Adding this to their previous core of 2.7 puts them at 5 out of 10 possible points."

I also wondered if Greenpeace does any in-depth investigation of the companies they assess. The point here being that much of what Steve Jobs says in his letter is information about existing programs at Apple and how they compare to those of other companies. My thought was that Greenpeace should have already known about Appleis existing programs.

"Yes," Mr. hind told me." Greenpeace asks companies to clarify any ambiguities in their policies. However, Apple discontinued their three year dialogue with Greenpeace after our first scorecard was released in August, 2006. We also test their products to confirm their claims."

Mr. Hind also told me that theyive offered Apple a road map indicating what it would take for the company to get 10 out of 10 point.

According to Greenpeace, hereis what Apple needs to do to get a 10/10 rating (From the Steps to a Greener Apple document):


A preliminary calculation of Appleis announcement of May 2nd that they will eliminate BFRs and PVC by 2008 and providing a clear description of a recycling plan earns them a score of 5.

When Apple announces a global take back program and confirm that all its products are free of the worst chemicals (starting with BFRs and PVC), their score will become 7.7.

APPLE ENVIRONMENTAL LEADER - A score that will hit the perfect 10. Apple announces that they publicly support individual producer responsibility and translate this into action by taking back their products regardless of where they are sold, and recycling them following international standards. The Apple website should provide detailed information on how consumers can return old Apple products free of charge, and publicly disclose figures showing what percentage of apple products sold globally they are recycling.

To make their products safer to consumers, to workers in production facilities and to workers in recycling facilities, Apple announces that starting with the current generation of MACs, all future MACs will be free of BFRs and PVC. To commit to a track of continuous improvement, Apple implements the precautionary principle - looking into gradual elimination of all hazardous chemicals. And to ensure that all their suppliers abide by this policy, Appleis chemicals management policy becomes transparent and public, so that consumers can make informed decisions about Apple products.

"Weire not obsessed with any one company," Mr. Hind said, "we are just trying to help the industry as a whole."

1: PVC= Polyvinyl Chloride; Can contain chemical known to have adverse effects to humans of other animals including lead and chormium.
2: BFR = Brominated Flame Retardant; May cause developmental and neurological damage.