In a rare reversal, Apple has decided to opt back into the EPEAT environmental certification program. Bob Mansfield, senior VP of hardware engineering, published a letter today explaining that the company would heed the Apple customers—notably the city of San Francisco—who disapproved of its earlier decision to drop out of the program.
"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," Mansfield wrote.
While Apple has been criticized at various points for the environmental impacts of its products and supply chain, it has also taken well-publicized steps to address those criticisms. This latest response, swift and concrete, is well in keeping with that trend. But it is unusual for a company that has been known to take weeks to respond to widespread consumer complaints about, for example, iPhone battery problems. Robert Frisbee, CEO of EPEAT, also posted a written response on the EPEAT website, confirming that "all of Apple’s previously registered products, and a number of new products, are back on the EPEAT registry."
The one sticking point is that "eligible products" disclaimer in Mansfield's note, which leaves open the possibility that select products and possible future ones might be excluded from Apple's EPEAT party. When Apple first dropped out of the EPEAT program, iFixIt observed that the new Retina Display MacBook Pro, which it got a good look at, was hard to take apart, and consequently, hard to recycle. But EPEAT now includes the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display computer on its certified product list. We've reached out to Apple and EPEAT for comment.
Update: Although Apple's newest model, the MacBook Pro with Retina Display, has been listed as Gold certified in EPEAT's public registry, EPEAT CEO Robert Frisbee told Fast Company that the computer has not been vetted by EPEAT itself.
The way the certification process works, companies are made aware of EPEAT standards and list products in the registry themselves. Later, EPEAT conducts what Frisbee called a "post-market verification" of a selection of products—sort of like a spot check of select product lines. "We choose certain product lines and certain requirements each year, and go through 6 different rounds each year. It's both a broad and narrow view," Frisbee says, adding, "It is not a 100% verification of all products each year."
EPEAT's audits have turned up a few lemons in the past. There have been a few instances, Frisbee said, where a post-market audit has found a listed product that doesn't met EPEAT standards. In those instances, at EPEAT's request, the companies concerned took their products off the registry.
Due to the recent focus on the relationship between Apple and EPEAT, though, Frisbee says it's likely the MacBook Pro with Retina display will jump the queue and an EPEAT verification of the computer will likely be a priority. "We have a process to establish surveillance rounds like that," Frisbee said, inspired by "market events." As to how soon we'll see a report: "Sorry, I don't have a time frame for it," Frisbee said.
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