A Greener Apple

Steve Jobs released yesterday a note on the Apple website about a “Greener Apple”. This was Jobs’s attempt to communicate to the stakeholders of Apple about its environmental programs till date and its future plans.A Greener Apple

When Greenpeace released its “Guide to Greener Electronics” report, I was shocked to find Apple at the bottom of the list. I use a iBook G4 and a iPod Nano. I know what it means to use well designed products. I also knew that Apple’s laptops are one of the best in terms of energy-efficiency.

Good Design is one of the basis for a environmentally friendly product. It did not make logical sense that Apple could be at the bottom of the heap. As Jobs said, “Apple is already a leader in innovation and engineering, and we are applying these same talents to become an environmental leader.”

Now Steve Jobs letter explains how Apple is ahead of the other computer manufacturers and what its plans are for the future.

Some highlights:

Apple completely eliminated the use of CRTs in mid-2006.

Apple products met both the spirit and letter of the RoHS restrictions on cadmium, hexavalent chromium and brominated flame retardants years before RoHS went into effect.

Apple plans to completely eliminate the use of arsenic in all of its displays by the end of 2008.

Apple plans to reduce and eventually eliminate the use of mercury by transitioning to LED backlighting for all displays when technically and economically feasible.

Apple plans to completely eliminate the use of PVC and BFRs in its products by the end of 2008.

Apple recycled 13 million pounds of e-waste in 2006, which is equal to 9.5% of the weight of all products Apple sold seven years earlier. We expect this percentage to grow to 13% in 2007, and to 20% in 2008. By 2010, we forecast recycling 19 million pounds of e-waste per year — nearly 30% of the product weight we sold seven years earlier.

In the above comparison Jobs in his own style clearly demonstrated how much ahead Apple is compared to its competitors and at the sametime pointing to Greenpeace about its method of rating companies.

Jobs highlighted the importance of design and materials, especially the iMac.

Producers must also take responsibility for the design and material choices that create the product in the first place. It is these choices that fundamentally determine the weight and recycling value of material waste at the end of a product’s life. The iMac is a world-class example of material efficiency, having shed 60% of its weight since its debut in 1998. Our designs use aircraft-grade aluminum, stainless steel and high-grade plastics that are in high demand from recyclers, who recover and resell these raw materials for use in other types of products. Few of our competitors do the same.

Unique Lessons

Some unique lessons come out of this note from Jobs.

One, that communicating with your stakeholders is important. As Jobs suggests, even abandoning Apple’s policy of not discussing about the future is important in this scenario. By providing some information about its future environmental plans to its competitors Apple is gaining by communicating to its customers, shareholders and other stakeholders and gaining reputation.

Two, the viral nature of the note from Steve Jobs. Jobs previously wrote about his now famous “Thoughts on Music” suggesting the move to a non-DRM music from iTunes. That created waves. A sincere, direct note from the CEO was a great viral marketing idea. He replicates this again.

Three, What is the methodology used by Greenpeace in its report? Is is just based on plans or plans on releasing plans as Jobs suggest? Greenpeace needs to be have a more transparent and robust methodology in releasiing its reports.

Fourth, the importance of design and innovation in general and to environmental performance in particular. The iMac and the generational change seen in the iPod are both examples of how design can be useful in cutting down size, creating a better product and improving the environmental performance.


2 thoughts on “A Greener Apple

  1. Hello,

    I work from Greenpeace – our criteria for ranking companies is clear displayed on our website. As you decide just to question what it is and link to a critic of the report here are some links for people who might want to read the original first.


    As you can see the criteria are based partly on policy but also on practice. Dell and Lenovo get points for having a actual global recycling policy in place now. Fujitsu-Siemens gets extra points for having models free of toxic flame retardants and PVC.


    We have tested some models of computers to check if what the companies say is actually true. For instance we found HP used a chemical it siad they were not using in Sept 2006.


    The news from Apple is good but only now have they pledged to be more transparent and make public what it intends to do with actual dates on those pledges.



  2. I read the letter on Sunday. Thought it will of interest to you. Man you rock in this “Green Thing”.


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