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Apple Removes 'Green' EPEAT Label On Macs, Faces Backlash In San Francisco

In a move that could potentially deal a blow to its PC sales in the public sector, Apple has reportedly asked to pull out of the environmentally conscious EPEAT program.

Apple is reportedly removing 39 of its products from a government-issued list of environmentally friendly tech products, a move that has prompted the City of San Francisco to ax all spending on desktop and notebook PCs from the Cupertino-based company.

According to a report this week from CIO Journal, Apple has requested that the Electronic Product Environment Assessment Tool, an organization backed by the federal government that sets standards for environmentally safe electronics, remove 39 of its products from its list of approved devices. The products being pulled range from monitors to Mac desktops to the MacBook Pro and Air notebook lines.

Robert Frisbee, CEO of EPEAT, said the organization was disappointed by Apple’s decision to remove its products from the registry.

[Related: Apple Pays $60 Million To Settle iPad Trademark Case In China ]

"They said their design direction was no longer consistent with the EPEAT requirements," Frisbee said in the CIO Journal report. "They were important supporters and we are disappointed that they don’t want their products measured by this standard anymore."

A separate report Tuesday from CIO Journal said the City of San Francisco is expressing its own disappointment with Apple’s decision to no longer comply with EPEAT standards by making a move to prohibit all Mac purchases within municipal agencies. San Francisco city officials are issuing letters to all 50 agencies over the next few weeks, asking them to refrain from using city funds to purchase Apple notebooks and desktops.

The letter being sent will reference a 2007 policy that requires city funds be used only to buy desktops, notebooks and monitors that have been certified by EPEAT.

The City of San Francisco may not be the only place where Mac purchases come to a halt because they lack EPEAT’s certification. Sarah O’Brien, director of outreach for EPEAT, told CIO Journal that many major corporations, including Ford and HSBS, restrict CIOs from purchasing any PCs that have not been EPEAT-certified. What’s more, the U.S. government requires 95 percent of all its tech purchases to be on EPEAT’s list.

EPEAT’s Frisbee said that Apple’s new MacBook Pro with Retina display was never submitted to EPEAT for certification, but doubted it would meet the required standards anyway. Its ultra-thin design, in which the notebook’s battery is glued to its case, makes it non-recyclable.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but told The Loop that ensuring its products are energy efficient and have minimal impact on the environment is still a top priority.

"Apple takes a comprehensive approach to measuring our environmental impact and all of our products meet the strictest energy efficiency standards backed by the U.S. government, Energy Star 5.2," Apple spokeswoman Kristin Huguet wrote in an emailed statement. "We also lead the industry by reporting each product's greenhouse gas emissions on our website, and Apple products are superior in other important environmental areas not measured by EPEAT, such as removal of toxic materials."

NEXT: Partners React To Apple’s Decision


John Convery, executive vice president of vendor relations at Denali Advanced Integration, an Apple partner and solution provider based in Redmond, Wash., anticipates Apple’s withdrawal from EPEAT to potentially hurt its sales in the public sector which, in turn, could eventually deal a blow to its channel partners, as well.

"When 95-plus percent of all products purchased by federal agencies have to be EPEAT certified, it’s a big deal," Convery said. "Certainly this move from Apple will affect government sales and impact all the public sector solution providers who sell Apple into this market."

Selling into the public sector in today’s economy is challenging enough as it is, Convery continued, and Apple’s decision to drop its EPEAT label will only make it more difficult.

Chris Knight, practice director of unified communications and mobility at Technology Integration Group, a San Diego, Calif.-based solution provider and Apple partner, said Apple’s decision to back out of EPEAT is simply a result of its products becoming thinner and more compact. As the industry continues to gravitate toward ultra-portable devices, other PC makers may soon have to follow Apple’s lead.

"I believe the reason this has happened and will also happen with other manufactures is simply due to the compact nature of the products. For example, the new MacBook Pro [with] Retina display has the screen glued to an actual metal lid, which it makes very hard to remove and then deemed not recyclable," Knight told CRN. "It is very clear all manufactures are trying to slim down, lighten and integrate more into the products, often leading them to glue/mold them into a single piece."

Knight, who works both within the government and enterprise space, said he doesn’t think the decision will have too significant an impact on his business, as many clients tend to purchase and bring their own devices -- many of which are Macs -- rather than be assigned a device by their CIO.

Jeffery Lauria, director of technology at iCorps, a Boston-based Apple partner and solution provider, also anticipates Apple’s decision to have minimal impact on either his business or Apple’s.

"Apple dropping green support will have little to no impact on their business. The fact is, most consumers are not focused on being green, and frankly, I expect most people have no idea what EPEAT is," Lauria said.

With the exception maybe of the federal government, the majority of Apple consumer and enterprise customers will continue to buy its products regardless of EPEAT certification, Lauria continued.

"At the end of the day, with little to no impact on the consumer market as well as the business market, I don’t see this as an impacting event," he said.

Michael Oh, founder and president of Tech Superpowers, an Apple reseller also based in Boston, agreed that the trickle-down effect of Apple pulling out of EPEAT will be minimal, especially since most of his customer base lies in the enterprise, rather than the public sector. He also stressed that while Apple may not necessarily be aligning with EPEAT’s standards, it still takes its own strides to be green, such as launching its own internal recycling program.

"My perception as to why they [Apple] would remove themselves from this [EPEAT] program… would be that the they are doing so because the program isn’t necessarily matching up with their criteria of how they consider their products to be green or recyclable or what not," Oh told CRN. "They are looking at how they can meet what they consider to be their requirements for a green machine."

PUBLISHED JULY 11, 2012

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