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Apple, Facebook Panned in Greenpeace Report

It's great that {complink 379|Apple Inc.} has been exemplary at satisfying its most important constituents — shareholders and customers — because, right now, the company doesn't seem to be in the good books of some other industry observers, this time labor activists and environmentalists.

Greenpeace today joined the list of institutions, agencies, and individuals that have been sharply criticizing Apple in recent weeks, but this time the focus of the complaint is on the company's record in the area of environmentally friendly and low-energy footprint products and operation. In a statement today, Greenpeace said it did not include Apple in its latest “Cool IT Leaderboard” report because the company had not demonstrated commitment to helping reduce the impact of its products on the environment.

In its press release, it said further about Apple: “It has not demonstrated leadership or elected to pursue market opportunities to drive IT energy solutions that many of its competitors have, despite record profits and large cash reserves.”

{complink 10867|Facebook} is in the same black book, although recent actions taken by the company have improved its image with Greenpeace. The organization noted that Facebook “will be included in next year's Leaderboard” because it “has recently changed its policies and committed to a renewably powered Facebook and announced a partnership with Opower to use the Facebook platform to help its users compare their energy usage.”

Essentially, getting a mention on Greenpeace's “Cool IT Leaderboard” requires a willingness by technology companies to leverage their real or presumed power and influence with suppliers to “transform the way we use energy, breaking our dependence on dirty sources of energy,” according to the environmental watch organization. That's not all, the top companies on the Greenpeace Leaderboard also demonstrate commitment to the following goal:

    By developing technology that allows users to monitor and prevent greenhouse gas emissions from everyday activities, ICT companies can provide society with solutions to phase out fossil fuels and drive the necessary changes needed to mitigate climate change impacts.

Many other technology companies got a ringing endorsement from Greenpeace for actions they've taken over the last years to develop a supply chain responsive to the environment. No. 1 on the overall Leaderboard this year was Google, followed by Cisco, Ericsson, Fujitsu, and Vodafone in that order. Also on the list are Alcatel-Lucent, Sharp, Softbank, IBM, Dell, HP, Microsoft, and Oracle. These companies outperformed because they not only actively introduced clean energy products in their operations but encouraged suppliers to adopt similar policies.

    “Technology giants have a real opportunity to use their power and influence to change how we produce and use energy – Google tops the table because it’s putting its money where its mouth is by pumping investment into renewable energy”, said Greenpeace International IT analyst Gary Cook. “The IT sector might like to consider itself forward-thinking, but it is keeping far too quiet while the dirty energy industry continues to exert undue influence on both the political process and financial markets”.

53 comments on “Apple, Facebook Panned in Greenpeace Report

  1. elctrnx_lyf
    February 8, 2012

    I think apple may not really care about this as long as people love their products. I still wonder if there is any tablet that can beat an ipad or id there is any phone that can beat iphone. Only their products talk !!!!

  2. jbond
    February 8, 2012

    It seems like Apple and Facebook are getting hit from everybody because of their size and constant media coverage. There are plenty of companies out there doing things much worse than these two, but going after high profile companies always brings media attention.

  3. chazzmoney
    February 8, 2012

    The MacBook laptops are the greenest laptops produced.  Apple reduces the manufacturing energy required and the carbon footprint of its devices every year.  Apple is building a solar power facility to power its data centers for iCloud.  Even Apple gift cards are made out of recycleable or compostable bio-plastic.

    I don't think Greenpeace would be happy unless they were put in charge of Apple's cash horde…  Which would be a disaster for everyone involved.

    Either that or they just want the media attention.

    http://www.apple.com/environment/

    http://www.recenttechnews.com/apple-green-energy-from-solar-power-plants.html

  4. Barbara Jorgensen
    February 8, 2012

    It seems Apple may have a technological problem in addition to being bashed by the media. Battery life of iProducts is notoriously short. The better performance of the iProds means battery depletion, and battery depletion means more frequent charging. Apple is not alone in this dilemma–better performing smart phones have the same drawback.

    There are also two distinct aspects to a company's greening–its products and its in-house performance. Apple may well be building enviro-friendly facilities–I wonder if that should offset their product shortcomings (per Greenpeace. iFans love their products).

  5. stochastic excursion
    February 8, 2012

    I thought software was especially minimal in its environmental footprint.  Especially the cloud services that Facebook provides would seem to be devoid of environmental impact.

    I'll have to take a closer look at how Greenpeace goes about ranking offenders.  It's been a long time since they made news dodging the French navy, as they staged a direct action against nuclear bomb testing.

  6. Houngbo_Hospice
    February 8, 2012

    @chazzmoney 

    Wow! Reading your comment, it seems that Apple is the greenest company on earth? Hmm, See this 2011 Green Rankings and you will change your mind. Your greenest Apple is ranked 50th among 500 US ranked companies.

  7. FLYINGSCOT
    February 8, 2012

    I think Greenpeace does us all a big favor by continually harassing the world's largest companies.  It is a useful way to keep check on these megalithic companies.

  8. chazzmoney
    February 8, 2012

    @Hospice_Houngbo

    It isn't that Apple is the greenest company on earth – rather its that Greenpeace makes it sound like they aren't doing anything / don't care at all.

    Using your referenced link, Apple is ranked 50th out of a list of 500 companies – so they are one of the top 10% greenest companies…  meaning 90% of companies do less / care less.

    I support Greenpeace and their actions, but this just feels like a media grab.  Go after the big polluters who actually don't care.

  9. _hm
    February 8, 2012

    In recent time greenpeace is making quite confusing and political remarks. Perhaps, Apple may be far too advanced for them to understand concept of gree technology. People, soon avoid noticing greenpeace comments.

     

  10. saranyatil
    February 9, 2012

    Yeah it can be considered in that fashion, Big companies are getting advertised freely and it helps to understand their activities and product details too.

  11. elctrnx_lyf
    February 9, 2012

    I completely agree with you that greenpeace is attempting all this to receive more media attention than anything else. Apple is always responsible towards society and environment.

  12. Daniel
    February 9, 2012

    It seems like a combined attack toward Apple from different corner. As far as I know, Apple salutes most of the labour and environmental issues within their limitations and a company much aware about social commitments. I think the Fox con issue is not directly related to Apple and Apple products are one of the most power yielding devices, when compare with any competing products.

  13. _hm
    February 9, 2012

    Can blog writer first do its own in-depth study for pros and cons of this type of unfounded surveys before writing and may be misleading reader in general? Or else this may be vendetta against Apple, may be highly innovative and responsible organization.

     

     

  14. bolaji ojo
    February 9, 2012

    _hm, “Apple may be far too advanced” for Greenpeace to understand? Apple also walks on water and is infallible. Right? The criticisms levelled against Apple (and Facebook) were not unfounded. Please read the report embedded in the blog.

    The same Greenpeace that you think has an axe to grind against Apple also recognized many other companies, including Google, IBM, HP, Dell and Oracle. Greenpeace also noted efforts being made by Facebook and said the company will be included in next year's ranking.

    That Apple is a runaway success in its field is undeniable but this does not make the company perfect. Go and read Apple's own report on its supply chain. By its own admission there are areas it needs to work on. The company is making efforts to improve operations and increase visibility into its operations. Greenpeace devoted about two paragraphs in a multi-page report to Apple and Facebook.

    I read the report and it didn't seem to me this was an attempt to bring down Apple. It was just a research report. Period.

  15. bolaji ojo
    February 9, 2012

    _hm, What exactly gave you the impression the Greenpeace survey is “unfounded”? Because it did not portray Apple in a good light? The survey as previously noted highlighted efforts at many other companies and gave credit where it was due. It also noted what it perceived as failures as well as efforts by companies to correct these.

    What you may not understand about Apple is that the company is tight lipped about many of its initiatives and this is hurting its image. I personally believe Apple may be doing a lot that limits the impact of its products and production processes on the environment. But where is the evidence when the company refuses to talk about it or open up to anyone?

    Apple probably got whacked in the Greenpeace report because it refused to provide documented evidence to the environmental watch body. It might have done a lot in this field but it doesn't comment. The recent New York Times article on the company's manufacturing relationship cast Apple in a negative light but the writers tried hard to get Apple to comment. It declined. I have personally over the years emailed and called Apple for comments on various subjects and not once has the company even acknowledged receiving my messages. Many other reporters, writers and editors have had similar experiences with Apple.

    -hm, Give it a try yourself since you are a fan of Apple and believe (without evidence, I might say) that the company is one of the more environmentally responsible companies on earth. Send them an email and share the response with EBN readers.

  16. t.alex
    February 9, 2012

    I am quite surprised companies like Facebook is 'blacklisted' by Greenpeace. What can it do to improve the image can anyone highlight?

  17. Ariella
    February 9, 2012

    And in today's news

    Apple is facing demonstrations on Thursday at a half-dozen of its retail stores around the world from customers concerned about how Apple's suppliers treat their factory workers in China and other overseas locations.

    The protests are the offline outgrowth of an online petition drive launched two weeks ago on social activism site Change.org. Created by Mark Shields, a self-described lifelong Apple customer who says he was “shocked to learn of the abusive working conditions in many of Apple's supplier factories,” the petition has drawn almost 200,000 signatures since its launch.

  18. Barbara Jorgensen
    February 9, 2012

    Wow. That's a first. It's a little surprising, though, that a lifetime Apple customer hasn't heard about this before now. Then again, I've been writing about how long it takes to change things, and here is the proof.

  19. Wale Bakare
    February 9, 2012

    As much as i love them– making such valuable products and widely acceptable & irresistible designs, all those attributed them as the leading innovative companies. I wanted to see the likes of IBM and Apple at top 2 or 5 of 500 green frontiers.

    Meanwhile, is green benefits on health and economy being overshadowed by political interest?

  20. bolaji ojo
    February 9, 2012

    t.Alex, Thank your for turning the conversation back to the facts rather than the emotional. Facebook got whacked by Greenpeace because it (previously) didn't focus on environmental issues. For a growing company this is understandable. Facebook is but a few years old and most companies during their growth phase don't spend too much time on issues like energy conservation, diversity employment, etc. They won't be around much if that was the priority at take off.

    Facebook has, however, started paying attention to these issues, according to Greenpeace and it will be on the list next year for a different reason. Facebook has committed to limiting the impact of its activities on the environment, according to Greenpeace. This is more recent, though, and wasn't started on time to make the 2012 ranking.

  21. bolaji ojo
    February 9, 2012

    Barbara, The protesters are demonstrating at Apple's new store in New York. Apple can nip this in the bud. The company continues to believe that it doesn't have to engage with the general public. This, as you can probably attest, is always a mistake. So much goodwill can be wasted by a management that is too wrapped up in its own success. I believe the company is confronting these problems but needs to speak up and be aggressive about making its actions known immediately.

    Steve Cook's letter to employees explaining what the company is doing demonstrates concerns about employee morale but stopping there isn't smart PR.

  22. Barbara Jorgensen
    February 9, 2012

    Bolaji–agreed. It is one thing to ignore the media, but another to ignore customers. Apple's arrogance isn't going to stand for much longer. Also, if Apple fans are beginning to turn on the company, it is a really bad sign. i-fans are known for their blind devotion to Apple, but clearly there is a limit to what even they will tolerate.

  23. bolaji ojo
    February 9, 2012

    I am curious, though. Is this a tempest in a tea cup kind of situation? Is it just the media; is Apple making a PR mistake; or will this just blow over and nobody will remember the controversy one year from now? I wonder.

  24. mfbertozzi
    February 9, 2012

    Thanks for the really interesting news Ariella. On the other side, Apple is the major ads revenue generator for Internet, I am wondering how those actions could achieve their target against a financial power so strong.

  25. Ariella
    February 9, 2012

    @mfbertozzi Some organizations lose their reputations from just one slip up that gets picked up over the internet, as in the case of the Komen for the Cure foundation. No one is immune. I'm not saying Apple will be utterly destroyed, but its reputation may need some polishing.

  26. mfbertozzi
    February 9, 2012

    I trust you Ariella, definitely. To be honest, feeling is Apple, right now, after SteveJobs leaving, appears more fragile and it looks like a flood is coming: issues on products, labor policy, strange report from FBI about the “Geek”, shown exactly today…who knows?

  27. Anna Young
    February 9, 2012

    @ Chazzmoney, I think Greenpeace should be credited for compiling reports of this sort and highlighting issues surrounding the impact created by low-energy footprint products and operations. However, Apple though may have the greenest laptop ever produced, records indicate that more is required from the company in this area. It's not a delight to find Apple by all standards in the 50th position of the 2011 Green ranking list of Americas largest public companies.

  28. Anna Young
    February 9, 2012

    Ariella, interesting! thanks for the link. Apple's die hard customer's are just to waking up to this realization? Apple have a lot of PR damage limitation propaganda to conduct.

  29. Ariella
    February 9, 2012

    @Anna, yes, I agree. 

  30. bolaji ojo
    February 10, 2012

    Matteo, Perhaps some of the issues you identified had been repressed and are now coming up after Jobs died.

  31. Ashu001
    February 13, 2012

    Bolaji,

    Quite right you are.

    For the longest possible time,Apple has simply fed on the unchanging love and adulation of the Apple Fanboys;but when you love something so much-You expect that thing to be as close to perfect as possible;probably that's why their customers are at the forefront of these protests forcing Apple to change their behavior.

    The thing is that Tim Cooks does not have the same charisma as Steve Jobs had.So  its almost like looking at a completely different company(minus the great PR that Jobs gave them).

    It also has a lot to do with the Growing pains and the fact that Apple is Now,the Top Dog.

    Lets hope they change their behavior before its too late for them.

    Regards

    Ashish.

  32. Ashu001
    February 13, 2012

    Ariella,

    A more important question that needs to be asked is this-Has the Positive PR bubble which Steve Jobs had built around Apple now burst for Good???

    If it has then the way we look at Apple needs to change and change fast.

    Ashish.

  33. Ariella
    February 13, 2012

    @Ashish, indeed that is the question. Will people never see Apple the same way again?

  34. Ashu001
    February 13, 2012

    Bolaji,

    A part of me agrees with what you have to say here.

    Don't we (in America) or the world have bigger problems/issues at the moment than whether or not Apple is able to satisfy Greenpeace??

    After all,don't me need more companies like Apple today?

    Companies that without any support from the State is able to innovate and create great products which leads to great profitability YoY??

    Think about the number of New Jobs that Apple and its surrounding ecosystem have created today.At a time when we need more jobs (with as little Govt support as possible-After all,Govts all over the Western World are bankrupt today..);we need more companies like Apple.

    But then,I return back to another issue-Ensuring our planet earth stays in good enough condition to pass onto succeeding generations.Thats when I realise the potentially huge role,Apple can play(as a Market leader) here.

    Maybe Greenpeace was right all along.Apple could do more.

    Ashish.

     

  35. Ashu001
    February 13, 2012

    Anna,

    A better question would be-Does Apple care about coming in at 50th Rank in the Greenpeace ranking???

    Or are they just happy gorging &gloating on their past successes??

    Time will answer this question quite accurately.

    Ashish.

  36. Ashu001
    February 13, 2012

    Ariella,

    Do we want to see it the same way?

    Is'nt a reversion to the mean the best case sceanario here?

    Won't that be good for over-all sustainability of the Electronics market is particular?

    After all,it has not been lost on anybody that the entire Electronics industry causes tremendous amount of waste(most of which is not recycled safely).Any moves to create more sustainability especially from the market leaders here would help for sure.

    Ashish.

  37. jbond
    February 13, 2012

    @Ashish,

    I think Apple ultimately cares about its ranking and how they will be perceived by followers and future customers. I don't know if Apple cares that much to make this a huge priority and dump millions into moving up the list, but they ultimately still care about their image. I mean many of their sales are based on the new image Apple has built.

  38. bolaji ojo
    February 13, 2012

    Ashish, At some point companies have to merge their income generating goals with social responsibility. Apple is generating jobs worldwide not as a duty to the government, society or the employees but because it needs them to make and service its products. Apple is not a charity but it is a part of a larger society. All companies — and not Apple alone — have to embrace the opportunity to help improve their environment.

  39. bolaji ojo
    February 13, 2012

    Jenn, Apple may not care about being No. 1 on Greenpeace's ranking. That is clear from the company's refusal to participate in the survey. I think Apple was not ranked at all because it didn't participate and not because it is paying little attention to the environment. Recent coverage indicate Apple is taking steps to improve working conditions at its contractors' factories and perhaps the company will get round to the environmental issues too soon.

  40. jbond
    February 13, 2012

    Bolaji, With all of the news coverage and Apple continually mentioned in regards to working conditions in China, I think Apple is going to take all needed steps to insure little damage is done to their reputation. Apple is currently one of the medias darlings along with Facebook and Google. They say any press is good press, but I think Apple is trying to insure all of their press is positive.

  41. Ashu001
    February 13, 2012

    Bolaji,

    I know I am going to be in the minority here,but I believe that Apple's Primary responsibility comes to its shareholders,once that is satisfied then and only then should Apple's Management worry about other issues like the impact their products have on the environment.

    After all,if Govts feel that Apple is not doing enough here,they have tools at their disposal to fine/force Apple to do just that.Like in the case of California here

    http://www.apple.com/recycling/gift-card/

    http://www.boe.ca.gov/sptaxprog/ewaste.htm

    Regards

    Ashish.

    P.S

    Maybe the protestors are going about it the wrong way.Instead targetting just one company(its not like the others are all saints);they should force Congress to make laws which add taxes equivalent to the burden on the environment these electronics products create(that is the route most of Northern Europe,especially the UK follows).

    Not just that,at a time when we need more Tax revenues,this will act as a Great source of revenue growth for our Budget strapped Government.

     

  42. Ashu001
    February 13, 2012

    Jenn,

    Would you say that this is actually a crisis caused by ineffective PR from Apple?

    Its a different way to look at it,I know but the Corporate/marketing Spin which is so important to making Apple and its products sound like “Gifts to Humanity” probably meant that they missed out on tackling critical issues like Environmental sustainability.

    I am sure you will agree.Somebody needs to get fired for mismanaging this PR issue for Apple.

    Ashish. 

  43. jbond
    February 13, 2012

    Ashish,

    I would agree that Apples PR department failed. The company was aware of these situations in China and decided to have the “wait and see” approach instead of taking this head on. The PR department is supposed to make sure the companies spotlight is always shiny. Now they are stuck with having to do damage control.

  44. bolaji ojo
    February 13, 2012

    Apple is certainly fulfilling its obligations to investors. I wouldn't complain if I owned shares in Apple. Today, the stock price briefly exceeded $500 for the first time and once that threshold has been crossed, you can imagine $600 is next. 🙂

    So, Apple is doing what it promised to shareholders. But in order to continue that, it must also find ways to avoid being badly labelled. It could be easy to simply ignore the protesters but the drip, drip, drip could end up hurting Apple and its investors.

  45. bolaji ojo
    February 13, 2012

    Jenn, Apple doesn't have a “known” PR spokesman. Its recognized spokesperson has always been the man at the top. It was Steve Jobs until his death and now it's Timothy Cook. It would have been suicidal to fire Jobs and it would be crippling to fire Cook.

    But you are right. There's a PR failure here. The company seems to be catching on fast, though. It has engaged with the Fair Labor Association to audit its suppliers' facilities. Apple may not want to elevate this to crisis level by addressing the issues directly with a conference call but my opinion is that it should; put everything on the table, tell the world what you've seen, how you are tackling the problems and introduce third-party verifiers. That should be satisfying.

  46. Ashu001
    February 13, 2012

    Bolaji,

    Maybe Apple should go ahead and fire the entire PR Department then???

    [For a collective Failure..]

    Ashish.

  47. Ashu001
    February 13, 2012

    Bolaji,

    Maybe Apple should go ahead and fire the entire PR Department then???

    [For a collective Failure..]

    Ashish.

  48. Ashu001
    February 13, 2012

    Bolaji,

    I would disagee on this issue.

    If that was the case,then Stocks like ExxonMobil,Tobacco companies,Alcohol Companies,Gun Companies,etc,etc would never be a core part of most Pension funds .

    They generate reliable returns for investors Year after Year after Year.

    Do they do good for the environment?

    Not exactly.

    So why can't we judge Apple along the same lines also???

    Ashish.

  49. bolaji ojo
    February 13, 2012

    Ashish, Apple doesn't generate good returns. It generates crazy returns and its investors so far are willing to cut the company a lot of slack. That's obvious. I am not inclined to say the company shouldn't pay attention to the environment. I was responding to your earlier question.

    Apple, like other companies, has numerous obligations to investors and the society of which it is a part. The company shouldn't ignore its social responsibility but it won't make this a priority. That's obvious. I think the company can continue to do good by doing good, that is, it can continue to make money and still position itself as environmental friendly.

  50. Anna Young
    February 14, 2012

    I hope not Ashish. Time will tell.

  51. Barbara Jorgensen
    February 14, 2012

    I still continue to struggle with the dilemma that Apple is first and foremost a business. Avnet's CEO Roy Vallee used to explain to me who the shareholders of a business are. They are customers, employees and shareholders. (Avnet does do a lot of great stuff outside of being a business, but this is about Apple.) Are Apple's customers, employees and shareholders being served? They are. Then again, who are the stewards of the environment? Organizations such as Greenpeace; governments and, of course, citizens. Greenpeace is targeting Apple. So I start again. Apple is a business…

  52. bolaji ojo
    February 15, 2012

    Barb, A business has fiducial responsibility first to the stakeholder but there are different ways to fulfill that and making a profit is often dependent upon having a good reputation with the public. Apple has a good reputation for making great products but does it have a good reputation as a socially responsible company? I have my doubts but would like to know what you think? Does Apple have a split personality, that is, a great company with good products but it is also seen as an aloof and self-engrossed company? Is that correct?

  53. Barbara Jorgensen
    February 15, 2012

    It's interesting, Bolaji. I've been circulating some of our recent reports among my Facebook friends. Of those that have worked in the tech industry, Apple is viewed as an incredible innovator with a brilliant but tyrannical leader. Social responsibility does not not come up as top of mind. To casual consumers, there is very little awareness one way or the other. Quality is a given; ease-of-use is a given; and they even get caught up in the “must have” aspect of the products regardless of price. I've come to the conclusion that Apple's CSR reputation has largely been built by Apple. Until recently, their efforts have not been particularly groundbreaking in terms of human rights or the environment. I'm not sure that is wrong as long as they abide by the law. But they are not seens as particularly proactive either.

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