Champagne corks will be popping at Greenpeace's headquarters today after computer giant Apple finally responded to pressure from the environmental lobby group and released details of its plans to improve its products' environmental credentials.
Greenpeace has been waging a high profile campaign against the iconic IT firm, repeatedly ranking it near the bottom in its Greener Electronics report on electronics firms' environmental policies and staging protests at several Apple stores and conferences to highlight the company's lack of transparency over its environmental policies.
Apple had repeatedly rejected the criticism claiming it did not recognise Greenpeace's ranking criteria, that it had "a strong environmental track record", and informing the environmental group that it was the company's policy not to disclose future plans, be it about new products or environmental initiatives.
However, Apple boss Steve Jobs has now had a change of heart and in a statement on the company's website he apologised for leaving customers "in the dark" about the firm's environmental strategy and released copious details about the company's environmental performance and policies, including several areas where he claimed Apple was ahead of its competitors.
"It is generally not Apple's policy to trumpet our plans for the future; we tend to talk about the things we have just accomplished," wrote Jobs. "Unfortunately this policy has left our customers, shareholders, employees and the industry in the dark about Apple’s desires and plans to become greener… So today we're changing our policy."
He went on to detail how Apple had eliminated the use of CRT monitors, containing high levels of lead, in mid-2006; had made all products worldwide compliant with the EU's RoHS directive without exploiting the current RoHS exemptions covering hexavalent chromium and the brominated flame retardant (BFR) decabromodiphenyl ether (DecaBDE); planned to eliminate the use of PVC and BFR in all products and the use of arsenic in its displays by the end of 2008; and planned to recycle almost 30 percent of its own product waste by 2010.
Jobs also vowed that this disclosure was the first part in a wider environmental strategy that will see the company report on its progress "at least annually" and also start to address other green issues, such as energy efficiency and that carbon footprint of products' entire lifecycle. Tantalisingly, he also revealed that the company "may have some interesting data and issues to share later this year".
Speaking to GBN's sister publication IT Week, Greenpeace campaign co-ordinator Zeina Alhajj welcomed the move, adding that the new announcements move Apple off the bottom of the Greenpeace Green Electronic Guide and up to tenth place out of 14.
However, she added that Apple could go further by agreeing to remove all PVC and BFRs from its forthcoming iPhone, due in June, and expanding its product take-back policy outside of the US.
Some observers had criticised Greenpeace's campaign against Apple for picking on a high profile target simply to attract media coverage. However, the episode serves to highlight the growing importance of transparent environmental policies and the extent to which it is now impossible for brand savvy firms to ignore or attempt to downplay environmental criticism.
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