Apple rolls over on EPEAT. Next: O2's 40 million subscribers?

Summary:Apple's u-turn on EPEAT signals that the company is not impervious to consumer & stakeholder pressure on green issues after all. Will Apple now be reconsidering its refusal to participate in O2's eco rating program? Will O2 up the ante to get Apple into their rating scheme?

Things are changing fast at Apple and the company has grown a thin skin. In a rare u-turn the company abandoned the EPEAT environmental ratings but opted back in within days after US government agencies piled on the pressure. According to the Guardian, EPEAT CEO Robert Frisbee reckons the science geeks in the US government were the deciding factor:

"The scientific community in the US government are big users of Apple," Frisbee said, adding that they were "particularly influential" in convincing the tech giant to resume its participation.

Makes you wonder just how much kit these scientists are buying at what margin to have this kind of influence. Could other corporate customers and individuals have as much influence now that Apple has shown its softer under belly? Consider that just last year, then Timberland CEO Jeff Swartz lamented:

Why should consumers like me have to choose between transformational technology and moral consumption? To iPad, or not to iPad—why is that the question? Why shouldn’t Apple’s leadership instead have to raise its game, and make their cool products and their cool company more socially accountable? If Apple would replicate the speed-to-market rigor and innovation of their product development in their corporate responsibility agenda, consumers like me could have our cool and self respect. .......Apple should keep exceeding my expectations for products, but not at the expense of my expectations for social and environmental responsibility.

Later writing in the comments section of this blog Swartz didn't dare ask Apple to make specific changes to its product specifications but instead focused on some corporate level jiggery pokery:

James - thank you for challenging me to be more specific about a call to action for Apple. .......Here's one specific action Apple could implement without batting an eye, that would signal a commitment to leading with technology and sustainability: What keeps Mr. Jobs from establishing a Board level committee, charged with overseeing Apple's business practice?

So if Apple will now roll over on green for a few highly vocal government scientist fanboys, what about the fate of O2's approximately 40 million network subscribers in the UK and Germany still waiting for Apple to participate in O2's product eco rating scheme? 

 Speaking at London's Green Monday event, (watch13:44 to 15:00) UK O2 CEO Ronan Dunne ruled out blacklisting Apple for non cooperation with O2s eco rating but he does note a big change at Apple since the ascendance of Tim Cook. Dunne accepts Apple are unwilling to cooperate with an individual customer eco-rating but says they would reconsider their position if there was an accepted industry standard:

We absolutely engage with them and I have personally spoken to Tim Cook on a number of occasions and expressed our view on the approach we have taken. So it’s an open dialogue. ………..Since Tim has taken over you see a lot more visibility on their agenda, his visits out to Foxconn and other things. I think definitely the momentum in that business is good. If our conversations with the ITU and GSMA go somewhere maybe there will be an eco rating on an Apple soon. 

After last week's EPEAT u-turn maybe O2 and its customers have more muscle than they think. 

Topics: Apple

About

James has more than 15 years of experience working on corporate sustainability issues from both the corporate and NGO campaigning perspective. He has worked directly within the banking (Farm Credit System), aviation (British Airways) and IT (SAP) sectors in the USA and Europe. His campaigning experience includes work at Amnesty Internatio... Full Bio

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