Take a poll on any city street, and you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t admire Apple’s clean, innovative product design. In the past 5 years, with the success of the iPod and power PCs, Mac has come to dominate the high-end consumer electronic space, with their clean, minimalist aesthetic. With such a prestigious design-driven brand, one would think that Apple would be leading the way in the green design revolution. Sadly, this is not the case – Apple is actually lagging behind companies like Dell and HP – and because of this, Greenpeace has spearheaded a creative campaign to green Apple.
Greenpeace launched their Green My Apple Campaign in September of 2006, with the claim that Apple products contain unsafe levels of PVC and BFR, toxins known to release carcinogenic dioxins when incinerated. While other companies have responded to Greenpeace’s demand for total transparency in chemical policy reporting, Apple has remained opaque.
In response to Greenpeace’s latest low rating of Apple in its Guide to Green Electronics, Apple spokesperson Sherly Seitz responded: “Apple has a strong environmental track record and has led the industry in restricting and banning toxic substances such as mercury, cadmium and hexavalent chromium, as well as many BFRs,” or brominated flame retardants.
But Apple’s does not publish information about which BFRs remain in their products, or a plan for phasing out PVCs. Which means, they no longer lead the industry, since other manufacturers have set timelines or have phased out these toxins completely. Why does Apple remain silent about its specific environmental plans? Since Apple won’t tell us why, we can only speculate.
One possible reason is that Apple is secretive, carefully planning the launch of each new product, sequestering small design teams to crack the iPod and the upcoming iPhone. Driven by creative CEO Steve Jobs, the company does not design by focus group or committees, but by prototyping their way to an interconnected, brilliantly designed iconic vision. The idea of cowering to a pesky environmental group, and disclosing the material-level reality of their products, is not the way Apple likes to operate.
Our call to Apple goes beyond Greenpeace’s attack. Apple stands for ingenuity. Macs are the power tool for the creative class. Steve Jobs is a business hero, an example of how to thrive in an age of globalization, media fragmentation, and rapid technological change. iTunes alone was a brilliant, green-by-default business model that instantly impacted the production of polluting CDs and DVDs.
Apple, we know you can point the way. Leapfrog your current position to lead the design and tech industry in this next wave of the green business revolution. We’re keeping the faith.