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Should Apple Ignore This Environmental Watchdog?

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Apple's environmental score takes a hit because it won't reveal certain information.

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MINYANVILLE ORIGINAL Greenpeace has released its 18th annual Guide to Greener Electronics. The Indian tech firm Wipro (NYSE:WIT) took the number one spot this year with a score of 7.1 out of 10 while Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) finished last in 16th with a score of 2. Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) saw its score drop from 4.6 to 4.5, placing it in sixth place compared to last year when it was in fourth place. (View the full rankings here.)

Why might these rankings be important? Apple's late CEO Steve Jobs reacted to the negative publicity Apple had received from Greenpeace in 2006 over the use of toxic substances and battled publicly with the group. CNET reported in 2011 that while Jobs defended Apple, he vowed to build a "Greener Apple" in 2007 when pressed by Greenpeace and other organizations. During Jobs' tenure, Apple began restricting and in some case banning the use of mercury, cadmium, and hexavalent chromium in its products, and it became the first electronics producer to completely eliminate polyvinyl chloride plastic, or PVC, from its products. Apple also changed its communication policies. (See the original press release here, via Macasm.)

Apple, however, has not officially responded to this year's ranking, and some commentators believe that Apple should ignore them because they view the ranking as unfair.

Apple lost points partly "for lack of transparency on GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions reporting, clean energy advocacy, further information on its management of toxic chemicals, and details on post consumer recycled plastic use." According to the report, Apple claims that it has its GHG data externally verified, but Greenpeace penalized Apple for not providing specifics.

Most commentators believe Apple can keep on improving its environmental footprint, but they view Greenpeace's grievances as just complaints made to try and force Apple to release all the requested company information. They also found the penalty for Apple not joining various advocacy groups to be excessive.

Macgasm pointed out that WiPro, Nokia (NYSE:NOK), Acer (TPE:2353), and Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) all have inferior product-life cycles, but all companies received higher scores than Apple. Greenpeace itself highlighted that Apple continues to have a strong global take-back program. In 2010, Apple's global recycling exceeded its 70% goal as a percentage of sales seven years ago, and Greenpeace expects this pace to continue through 2015. Macgasm sarcastically emphasized the discrepancy in scores by stating:

What's more important for the environment? Product life cycles and using recycled plastics where possible, or "clean energy policy advocacy?" According to Greenpeace, it's the advocacy. I mean, who cares how long products last, and how much a company uses recycled materials.

Dell infrequently uses recycled plastics in their products according to the article.

Other than these transparency concerns, Greenpeace also took issue with some of Apple's other practices. E-waste criteria and the absence of a strong take-back program in India bothered the environmental organization. It also expressed disappointment that Apple has not began eliminating antimony and beryllium from its products.

Greenpeace would also like Apple to increase its use of renewable energy for facility-related electricity consumption from 13% "by setting an ambitious goal for boosting renewable energy use by 2020."

Greenpeace may be testing current CEO Tim Cook to see if he can be moved as much as Steve Jobs.

Apple's official statements on its environmental policies can be seen here.

Twitter: @ChrisWitrak
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