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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Computers and the Environment

I saw this story - Steve Jobs Talks Green - in Google news about Steve Jobs and Greenpeace, and how computer electronics and chemical toxins affect the environment. I was interested as I both have a Macintosh computer, and care about the health of the environment ... who knew these two interests could be in conflict? Here's a little of the article below ....


In the just-posted "A Greener Apple," Jobs turns his attention to the criticism that Apple has received from environmental groups - most notably Greenpeace - regarding Apple's manufacturing and recycling practices. In it, he runs down what Apple is doing to reduce or eliminate toxic chemicals from the manufacturing process and then explains Apple's recycling programs. In a departure from the norm, he also discusses Apple's goals for the future with regard to further reductions in toxic manufacturing chemicals and increased recycling efforts .......

An entirely rational outside observer might say that Greenpeace is acting in line with traditional environmental principles in its attempts to reduce toxic chemical usage and encourage increased recycling. I don't think anyone questions that Greenpeace does have that as the overall goal. But it also feels as though Greenpeace is targeting Apple not because Apple is necessarily worse than other, much larger companies, but because anything surrounding Apple generates media attention and controversy, and that attention is good for Greenpeace's ultimate goal. Therein, I think, lies the reason why many Mac users have reacted so defensively to Greenpeace's attacks; it feels as though Greenpeace is specifically targeting Apple for other-than-stated reasons.

Apple isn't entirely free of culpability here either. As much as Apple fans sometimes lose track of this fact, Apple is a public company, and a big one at that. Above all else, Apple's loyalties lie with serving the shareholders by improving the bottom line. There's no question that many of the individuals who make up the company believe strongly in the goals of the environmental movement, but Apple as a company will always put the health of the company before the health of the environment.

That doesn't mean that Apple as a company gives no thought to the environmental impact of its actions, nor does it mean that Apple will always take the cheapest approach, regardless of impact. That's because Apple, much more so than companies like HP or Dell, lives and dies by its public image. Buying an iPod, and even a Mac these days, is considered cool, and any tarnish that accumulates on Apple's highly polished brand could drastically hurt the company's fortunes. Thus, Apple must play a balancing act between trying to produce goods as cheaply as possible to bolster the bottom line and spending more to protect the environment and the company's reputation ......

Let me leave you with what I felt were the two most interesting details in Jobs's letter. First, for the Apple product watchers, he said that Apple plans to introduce the first Macs with LED-based displays in 2007, and the speculation is already rampant as to which product will include such a display first. To my mind, it's mostly a detail; I don't care much about how my LCD screen is backlit, just that it is. Second, while the entire letter is a textbook exercise in controlling the PR message, there's an unusual sentence at the end, something you won't often hear from Apple: "We apologize for leaving you in the dark for this long."


- Greenpeace's Green Electronics Guide


Blogger Jeff said...

Hi Crystal,

It is curious that Greenpeace would go after Apple instead of the others. Could it possibly be that they think Apple is more receptive to the idea of going green than the others? Are they expected to be more reasonable on the topic?

Then again, maybe it's because Steve Jobs is alleged to have had some shady dealings concerning his stock options?

BTW, I love the Mac vs. PC commercials trhey've been running lately.

11:11 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Jeff,

I like those commercials too.

I used to trust Apple as being very honerable but then there was the whole iPod battery issue (iPod's Dirty Secret) a few years ago and I realized they are a business with profits as their goal, just like evryone else ... well, maybe a tiny bit better than everyone else :-)

1:37 PM  

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