Ticking the boxes

Well, an interesting turn of events with Apple over the past couple of days. And one that just goes to show that even the very biggest players have to be able to tick the boxes.

Last Monday, I read a report that Apple were pulling their computers out of EPEAT (the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool). For those who don’t know it, EPEAT is a global registry for greener electronics. It categorises items against a long list of criteria in seven categories – reduction/elimination of environmentally sensitive materials, material selection, design for end of life, product longevity/life extension, energy conservation, end-of-life management,corporate performance and packaging – and awards bronze, silver or gold ratings according to the score.

Apple computers score well in the EPEAT registry, but Apple decided they were going to pull all its certified products off the registry – and said that their website has lots of information about the environmental impacts of their products. The tale then continued…

I next read that the city officials in San Francisco were sending out letters to their offices saying that, as a result, Apple products no longer qualified for purchase with city funds. Some US universities followed suit. The story went on to CNN. And lots of other places. My inbox was full of stories, wondering what would happen next.

An analyst interviewed by a Wall Street Journal reporter said he thought it wouldn’t make much difference, as organisations that require EPEAT compliance for their computers are only a small percentage of Apple’s customers, and anyway there is so much information on their website. But perhaps analysts don’t get lots of tenders with boxes that have to be ticked.

There was also a fair amount of discussion about why Apple decided to do this, most of it around the design of the latest products – but that’s not so much the story I’m telling. It’s the reaction.

Apple put out press releases, explaining that they have very high environmental standards, and that there is lots of information available on their website (yes, I know I’m repeating myself with this comment!). But still the momentum built. And by Friday, Apple announced a change of heart – they were going back into the registry, and recognised that the decision to pull out had been a mistake.

So take heart all you printers who get so fed up with demands to be able to tick boxes when you’re already doing so much – you’re not alone in this. Annoying though it may be, even the really, really big boys have to do it.

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