San Francisco Is The First City To Riot Over Apple Rejecting Green-Friendly Rating System

San Francisco Is The First City To Riot Over Apple Rejecting Green-Friendly Rating System

How badly will fallout from Apple’s decision to remove its products from the EPEAT registry affect it?

Just days after word broke that Apple had decided to withdraw its products from the EPEAT registry, San Francisco announced that the city would will stop procurement of Apple’s Mac desktops and notebooks. The move may be the first of many such announcements as many local, state, and federal agencies mandate purchases of only computers that meet the EPEAT criteria.

Apple’s decision to remove 39 of its products from the registry is puzzling to many considering that Apple is very vocal and transparent about the environmental friendliness of its products and processes. Apple was also one of the companies that helped create the EPEAT standards in 2006.

The general assumption is that Apple’s decision has to do with the standard’s requirement that all devices must be easy to disassemble for recycling. Apple’s pursuit of designs using custom parts that maximize space in order provide additional performance and battery life has led to products that cannot be easily disassembled for repair or recycling. In some cases, Apple has also deliberately made products difficult to dismantle to discourage users from attempting repairs or modifications – and make it obvious to Apple if that has happened and thus voided a product’s warranty.

The big question now is how big of an impact this will have on Apple. That impact could come on two fronts: enterprise organizations being blocked from buying Apple solutions and the public perception of Apple’s decision.

From an enterprise viewpoint, this could cause some agencies, schools and colleges, and some businesses to avoid the products that Apple removed from the EPEAT list. In addition to San Francisco, The Wall Street Journal’s CIO Report notes that major universities, including Cornell and UC Berkeley, are reconsidering their use of Apple products.

It’s hard to say exactly how badly this could hit Apple in the enterprise and business markets. Given that Macs are still a minority in many enterprises, particularly government enterprises, Apple may not see a horrific impact on Mac sales. San Francisco officials admitted that Macs represent a small fraction of the cities computers – about one to two percent. That amounted to spending just $45,579 on Apple products according to city records for 2010.

The impact isn’t expected to include iOS device purchases, however. EPEAT standards are currently only available for computers, displays, and thin client terminals. That means enterprise and education sales of iPads and iPhones should be unaffected. Most of Apple’s enterprise sales are centered around iOS devices. Even if they were impacted, the trend of employees using personal iPhones and iPads would cushion the blow for Apple.

As Gartner analyst Michael Gartenberg points out, this means it’s possible that the impact may be noticeable without creating a dire situation for Apple.

Is there some significance? Yes. Major significance? No. Given the relatively small percentage [of organizations] that require 100% EPEAT-compliance, it’s not going to make a whole lot of difference to Apple.

Public perception, however, could be a different matter. Greenpeace already tends to take shots at Apple’s environmental record. In much the same vein, the NY Times could use the move as another way to point out environment issues within the electronics and technology industries while focusing on Apple. That could lead to more anti-Apple protests like the ones seen around working conditions at Foxconn factories in China.

On the other hand, Apple could use the move to illustrate its green initiatives including moves to power its data centers using green power sources. Whether the company can reframe the discussion to focus on its green track record is anybody’s guess at this point.

  • Zeteboy

    Sure, let’s make a big deal out of nothing. There has been no change in apple products. The regulation in epeat makes it near impossible to comply. Take out the “ease of “disassembly part and everything is ok.

  • lowtolerance

    Wow, that title is ridiculously sensationalistic. A city announcing a shift away from a platform is a far cry from a riot, which is violent act of protest.

    Way to show your journalistic integrity, Ryan.

  • nolavabo

    This only matters if SF city actually sends their old computers to be disassembled.

  • B066Y

    I may be in the minority on this, but unless there is a tax break or some other form of money savings for me “green-friendly” never enters into the equation. And being able to fix it myself is not a savings for me, I don’t want to have to do that stuff on my off time.

    Also the title is a bit over the top.

  • mr_bee

    The only “big question” here is how long it will take for Greenpeace to jump on this heavily festooned bandwagon.

  • lwdesign1

    What I find strange about this is not only Apple’s decision to remove the epeat labels from its products, but its lack of information on exactly why it’s doing this. Apple helped set up the epeat standard but is now withdrawing from it. Apple’s silence on the matter leaves a vacuum that journalists and the general public will try to fill with explanations–and this is a very bad move PR-wise. Come on Apple, give us a statement so we can be clear on why this action is being taken. Being green has always been a high priority with Apple, so I’d like to know what gives.

  • ElVox

    I still don’t understand why people pay attention to Greenpeace…they are nothing but a bunch of ecoterrorists that should be added to the list where all other terrorist organizations are, and treated accordingly.

  • ForgotMyOrange

    Please explain the use of the word “Riot” – I only read that some council decided to stop ordering something. Please tell me you didn’t just blatantly lie to boost reader ratings… this smells very bad.

About the author

Ryan FaasRyan Faas is a technology journalist and consultant living in upstate New York who has written extensively about Apple, business and enterprise IT, and the mobile industry. In addition to writing for Cult of Mac, he is a contributor to Computerworld, InformIT, and Peachpit Press. In a previous existence he was a healthcare IT director as well as a systems and network administrator. Follow Ryan on Twitter and Google +

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