A greener Apple, A lamer Greenpeace

Today Apple posted another Steve Jobs essay, this one about how Apple strives to create products that are environmentally friendly. Apple has been getting beat up in the press about the Mac and iPod maker’s supposedly poor environmental policies, thanks in great part to Greenpeace’s campaign against the company.

In his essay, Jobs notes that

It is generally not Apple’s policy to trumpet our plans for the future; we tend to talk about the things we have just accomplished. Unfortunately this policy has left our customers, shareholders, employees and the industry in the dark about Apple’s desires and plans to become greener. Our stakeholders deserve and expect more from us, and they’re right to do so. They want us to be a leader in this area, just as we are in the other areas of our business. So today we’re changing our policy. (Emphasis mine.)

Anyone with a grade-schooler’s reading comprehension will see that “today we’re changing our policy” is in reference to Apple policy not to “trumpet our plans for the future”.

So what does Greenpeace do? They post a headline on their Green My Apple site that says “Breaking News: Steve Jobs” announces change in policy”, and an essay of their own:

Today we saw something we’ve all been waiting for: the words “A Greener Apple” on the front page of Apple’s site, with a message from Steve Jobs saying, “Today we’re changing our policy.”

You’re the consumers of Apple’s products, and you‘ve proven you make a real difference. You convinced one of the world’s most cutting edge companies to peel the toxic ingredients out of the products they sell.

They’ve deliberately taken out of context Jobs’ comment about policy change, and state that this change” is about eliminating “toxic ingredients”.

How lame.

That’s not all, though. In their opening paragraphs they also say

Apple has declared a phase out of the worst chemicals in its product range, Brominated Fire Retardants (BFRs) and Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) by 2008. That beats Dell and other computer manufacturer’s pledge to phase them out by 2009. Way to go Steve!

Factually accurate, but purposefully misleading. Reading this, you might draw the conclusion that Apple said “we’re changing our policy to eliminate BFRs and PVC by 2008”. In fact, what Apple said was

Apple began phasing out PVC twelve years ago and began restricting BFRs in 2001.


Today, we’ve successfully eliminated the largest applications of PVC and BFRs in our products, and we’re close to eliminating these chemicals altogether. For example, more than three million iPods have already shipped with a BFR-free laminate on their logic boards.


Apple plans to completely eliminate the use of PVC and BFRs in its products by the end of 2008.


Apple’s plastic enclosure parts have been bromine-free since 2002.

Much different take, wouldn’t you say? Apple choose to “phase out… the worst chemicals in its product range” six years ago for BFRs, and twelve years ago for PVC! And while some computer manufactures still use BFR for some of their plastic enclosures (Jobs mentions Dell specifically), Apple completely eliminated BFRs from their plastic enclosures five years ago.

I’m disappointed in Greenpeace. While I applaud their efforts to reduce the environmental impact companies make, it’s unfair to use misleading tactics to accomplish this goal. Apple appears to be as green as—if not more so than—any of its competitors, and calling them out smacks of opportunism: Apple is a media darling, draws headlines, and has millions of famously loyal customers.

Using Apple as the poster child for the industry garners Greenpeace more interest than using Dell or Gateway. I find that a sleazy practice and wish Greenpeace would just fight fair.

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