Apple shoots itself in the foot with EPEAT withdrawal (Updated)

Apple's doing damage control after withdrawing from the EPEAT green technology standard, but it stands to lose a lot of business from the Federal government, higher education and companies like Ford and HSBC.

Late last month Apple requested that all 39 of its certified MacBooks and iMacs be removed from the EPEAT (Electronics Product Environmental Assessment Tool) registry.

ZDNET's Heather Clancy reports that the scuttlebut was over the new Retina MacBook Pro, which includes a completely glued LCD assemply and batteries that glued to the case (hence, not recyclable). Although unconfirmed as the reason for the withdrawal, glued and non-recyclable components violate the EPEAT criteria.

Apple's Kristin Huguet gave a statement to The Loop indicating that EPEAT is outmoded and that the Federal government's Energy Star certification is really what matters:

Apple takes a comprehensive approach to measuring our environmental impact and all of our products meet the strictest energy efficiency standards backed by the US government, Energy Star 5.2. 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.

According to WSJ's Joel Schectman San Francisco city officials are moving to block purchases of Apple desktops and laptops by all municipal agencies after it removed the EPEAT certification from its products. And they're not the only ones.

The federal government requires that 95% of its laptops and desktops be EPEAT-certified and CIO Journal reports that dozens of top universities, including Cornell University and University of California, Berkeley require their IT teams to purchase only EPEAT-certified computers.

WSJ adds that many of Apple’s biggest customers require EPEAT certification:

Many corporations like Ford, HSBC, and Kaiser Permanente require their CIOs to purchase computers from sources that are EPEAT certified, said Sarah O’Brien director of outreach for EPEAT. And the U.S. government requires that 95% of the electronics it purchases be EPEAT certified.

In 2010, the last year the survey was conducted, 222 out of the 300 American universities with the largest endowments asked their IT departments to give preference to EPEAT certified computers. Around 70 of the schools required EPEAT certification for electronics purchases, according to O’Brien.

This is a bad business decision for Apple, and one that it is going to regret.

The only potential saving grace is that iPhones and iPads aren't certified by EPEAT and thus not impacted by Apple's withdrawal. Another thing in Apple's favor is the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend which means that individuals are increasingly deciding which machines they bring to the office -- not their employer. 

Regardless of the corporate purchasing implications, shouldn't Apple do the right thing for the environment? Or are you believing the spin and it's really the Energy Star ratings that matter?

UPDATE: ZDNET's Adrian Kingsley-Hughes reports that Apple's senior vice president of hardware engineering Bob Mansfield has reversed course and decided to re-list Apple's products on EPEAT. Mansfield had this to say:

We’ve recently heard from many loyal Apple customers who were disappointed to learn that we had removed our products from the EPEAT rating system. I recognize that this was a mistake. Starting today, all eligible Apple products are back on EPEAT.

Kudos to Mansfield and Apple for reversing course on one of its worst business decisions in recent memory.

Although Apple has given the new Retina MacBook Pro a "Gold" level EPEAT rating, the Electronics TakeBack Coalition (via MacRumors) has expressed doubts that this rating will ultimately stick.

It's important to understand that the manufacturers grade themselves against the EPEAT criteria first, and then EPEAT conducts a review of this grading. That EPEAT review has not yet occurred. They can require the manufacturers to remove any product from the registry if it is not found to conform to the IEEE standard.