Apple Talks a Green Game, but Doesn’t Want to Report on Its Sustainability

12 02 2009

Apple launched a line of new green products last month at Macworld, but its eco-friendly MacBook Pro product line has been tainted due to the company’s attempts to extinguish shareholder requests for more corporate social responsibility (CSR) reporting.

Apple issued a proxy filing January 7 that urged shareholders to vote against a shareholder resolution proposed by As You Sow, an environmental group co-sponsored by the New York City Office of the Comptroller and the Green Century Equity Fund.

The resolution would require the company to publish a CSR report by July 2009. The report would include its approach to greenhouse gas emissions, recycling and toxics. Apple would have to define “sustainability” and a company-wide review of policies contributing to sustainable operations would have to be included in the report.

As You Sow is pushing for the resolution for Apple to create such a report because over 2,700 companies, including direct Apple competitors like Dell, IBM and HP, produce CSR reports.

“Apple lags behind its global industry peers on sustainability reporting, especially regarding key environmental issues such as climate change,” the resolution stated.

Al Gore and Apple’s Board Push for No Resolution
Apple’s board of directors, of which Al Gore is a part, recommended that shareholders vote against the resolution. Apple’s reasoning? “The board believes that the proposal has been substantially addressed and publication of an additional report would produce little added value while requiring unnecessary time and expense,” Apple said in its proxy filing.”

The company has reports and statements on its Web site that detail its environmental activity, including a page on supplier responsibility. Apple believes this serves the same purpose as a formal CSR report.

This Isn’t First Environmental Attack on Apple
As You Sow has tried to pressure Apple in the past, and in May 2007, the company published take-back and recycling goals for old computers, a week before a shareholder resolution issued by As You Sow came to a vote.

Greenpeace has also wanted a piece of Apple. Greenpeace criticized Apple for months over its failure to publish its policies regarding the use of toxic chemicals in its products. Apple boss Steve Jobs actually apologized and Apple released info on a “raft of new targets designed to phase out the use of hazardous chemicals.”

Back to the Green Apple Products
The latest proxy filing came at the same time Apple launched its new 17-inch MacBook Pro laptop, of which it claims is the “world’s greenest family of notebooks.” The laptop is made of “highly recyclable aluminum and is both mercury and arsenic free.” The battery is a non-removable lithium polymer battery that is supposed to give the average user 1,000 recharge cycled before needing replaced, which Apple says is three times as many cycles as conventional batteries. The battery must be replaced by an Apple technician, but it should last the average user 5 years, which an Apple rep said probably won’t happen. The user will probably buy a new laptop before the battery ever needs changed so it won’t be a problem.

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