What Apple's Epeat Flip-Flop Means for Green Business

Apple's latest big announcement wasn't a new iPhone launch or the thinnest laptop on the market, but it made headlines across the globe nonetheless.

Apple's shocking decision to pull all listed products from the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) registry late last month was quickly repealed last week when the company announced it would rejoin the voluntary green electronics registry. EPEAT, formed to help consumers make better purchasing decisions through transparency in product components and recyclability, has become the global standard for green electronics. The registry also informs purchasing decisions for the U.S. federal government (only 5 percent of government electronics purchases can be non-EPEAT) and a majority of company procurement decisions.

The electronics giant's move to pull all 39 of its certified products from the registry caused a wave of consumer and industry backlash, and it also prompted San Francisco's Department of Environment to announce it would no longer sanction purchases of Apple desktops and laptops across all 50 city agencies. Although some still speculate the reason for the withdrawal, EPEAT's CEO issued a statement saying Apple believed its "design direction was no longer consistent with the EPEAT requirements." However, succumbing to the subsequent backlash, Apple soon learned the error of its ways and issued a letter to consumers declaring it would rejoin EPEAT, recognizing that removing products from the registry was a "big mistake."

Cone's 2011 Cone/Echo Global CR Opportunity Study found 93 percent of consumers globally would stop buying a product if they learned of a company's irresponsible practices or felt misled. Apple's flip-flop brings this statistic to life and shows the power of consumer activism to drive environmental progress. If you're looking for proof that not only does a market exist for responsible products, but that consumers demand it, Apple has inadvertently provided the evidence.

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