SVP Bob Mansfield Says Apple Products Back On EPEAT Certification: ‘This Was A Mistake’

Apple’s Senior Vice President of Hardware Engineering Bob Mansfield just published a letter on the company’s website announcing that Apple has reversed its decision to remove EPEAT environmental certification from its products.

“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,” Mansfield writes. “I recognize that this was a mistake. Starting today, all eligible Apple products are back on EPEAT.”

Apple reportedly asked the EPEAT standards group to pull its 39 eligible products (including desktop computers, laptops, and monitors) from the EPEAT green products list earlier this month. A few days after the news broke, a company spokesperson defended the decision, saying, “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.”

The company may have been counting on consumers like me, who own lots of Apple products but have very little idea what EPEAT is. (Products receive EPEAT ratings based on factors like energy conservation, use of environmentally sensitive materials, and recyclability.)  However, as with pretty much everything else Apple does, the decision got a lot of coverage. It may also have threatened the company’s ability to sell to schools and governmental agencies — San Francisco officials, for example, said they would be blocking purchases of Apple products.

Despite backing off its earlier decision, and also claiming that the company’s relationship with EPEAT “has become stronger as a result of this experience,” most of Mansfield’s letter restates the argument that Apple had been making earlier, that its environmental success shouldn’t be measured by older standards:

“It’s important to know that our commitment to protecting the environment has never changed, and today it is as strong as ever. Apple makes the most environmentally responsible products in our industry. In fact, our engineering teams have worked incredibly hard over the years to make our products even more environmentally friendly, and much of our progress has come in areas not yet measured by EPEAT.”

EPEAT CEO Robert Frisbee has published on open letter of his on the EPEAT website, hinting (albeit in fairly convoluted language) that Apple’s move may be spurring the group to update its standards (or to work more quickly on already-planned updates):

“An interesting question for EPEAT is how to reward innovations that are not yet envisioned with standards that are fixed at a point in time. Diverse goals, optional points awarded for innovations not yet described, and flexibility within specified parameters to make this happen are all on the table in EPEAT stakeholder discussions. …

“Answers to these questions support all our subscribers, and lead to mutual benefit for all our purchasers.   And they led us to the path to our strengthened relationship with Apple.”