Apple and Other Tech Companies Accused of ‘Weakening’ Green Electronics Standards

In a new 45 page report by Mark Schaffer of Repair.org, Apple, Sony, and other tech industry companies have been targeted as the reason behind lagging green electronics standards in the United States, which are meant to establish an overall set of environmental leadership specifications for the design, usage, and end-of-life phases of electronic devices.

According to Repair.org, Apple and companies like it consistently output products with extremely low repairability scores, and often fail to meet quality green electronics standards.


The report said that this is mostly because these tech companies "hold so many positions" on the boards of green electronics standards that they can vote and resist changes they see as potentially unfavorable for their product development. This has caused the standards to become "increasingly ineffectual," making them hard to update and unable to keep up with the fast-paced advancements in the technology that they are written for.
“Green standards in the US play an important role. They are supposed to shape the electronics industry for the better and encourage manufacturers to make more sustainable products. As consumers, we should be able to trust them to identify only the most sustainable products,” says Gay Gordon-Byrne, Executive Director of Repair.org. “Instead, members of the IT industry have co-opted standards for their own benefit, warping them into a tool that drives sales at the expense of the environment. This is patently unacceptable, and it needs to change.”

Manufacturers including Apple, Blackberry, and Sony have consistently blocked meaningful criteria that would influence their product design, including strong incentives to encourage design for repair or recycling.
In the report, Repair.org looks at the repair/reuse criteria included in the UL 110 standard for cell phones, which was approved in early 2017 and "contains some repair criteria and optional requirements for battery removability without tools." Apple and Samsung were able to claim the highest "gold" ratings for the iPhone 7 and Galaxy S8 right off the bat when the standard went live in July, which the report called "troubling." Repair.org explained that a "properly developed" standard should see newly claimed devices barely able to achieve a lower "bronze" rating, and have to work their way up the standard.

Under a section called "manufacturers oppose leadership standards," the report delves more into Apple's refusal to comply with the support of standardized tools that could be used to disassemble their products. Despite Apple's voting against such a rule, it's said that enough companies decided to vote in favor of this section of UL 110.
The only effective, repair-focused language in UL 110 is an optional criterion that awards manufacturers extra points for batteries that can be removed without the use of tools. It is the only repair-related criterion in the UL 110 standard that incentivizes a different design. Still, one manufacturer steadfastly opposed this proposal and refused to vote for its inclusion in the standard: Apple. Ultimately, this was one of the few instances in which manufacturers broke ranks. Enough device-makers voted to have the optional criterion included in the recently published version of the standard.
Still, the UL 110 standard's various sections -- including end-of-life, reuse, and recycle -- are described as "watered down" and "neutered" to the point that device makers don't have to alter the course of EOL practices that they've been following in previous years. The report then lists a few common arguments manufacturers have given for their actions, including public safety concerns if at-home repair was widely supported, easily accessible authorized repair centers, and more, all of which Repair.org refutes.

Apple has long been a proponent of environmental protection and action in its position as one of the biggest device makers on the planet. This past April, the company released its 2017 Environmental Responsibility Report and announced its goal to set up a "closed-loop supply chain," which would drastically reduce global electronics waste by building new Apple products using only recycled materials, including old Apple products.


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Apple Shares New Earth Day Ad in Late July

Earth Day was over three months ago, on April 22, yet Apple today uploaded another quirky Earth Day video outlining the company's plan to ensure almost one million acres of forests are responsibly managed by 2020.


The one-minute ad was shared on Apple's own YouTube channel today, and later tweeted by Apple's environmental chief Lisa Jackson.

Apple's 2017 Earth Day video campaign began around the annual event in late April, but Apple uploaded another video in late May and now one in late July. Apple's environmental efforts are commendable, so we'll let it slide.


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Apple Adds Phobio as New Mac Trade-In Partner

Apple today updated its Mac recycling program to partner with a new company, replacing longtime partner PowerOn with Phobio, a company that promises a seamless device buyback program. Apple's recycling program is designed to offer Apple users cash for their old devices by providing simple trade-in options.

Starting today, when you use Apple's Renew and Recycling program to recycle a Mac desktop or notebook, Apple will now direct you to Phobio's site where you can find your Mac by entering a serial number. After answering a couple of questions about condition, Phobio offers up a price estimate and lets users choose an Apple Store Gift Card, Paypal, or Virtual Visa Reward as a payment option.


According to a source that spoke to MacRumors about the partnership change, Apple opted to go with Phobio because the site offers higher trade-in values, is easier to navigate, and provides an option for cash payments alongside Apple Store Gift Cards, something that wasn't available via PowerOn.

Based on our testing, Phobio and PowerOn offer similar trade-in values for many machines, with PowerOn offering a slight edge in value for newer Macs, while Phobio seems to have slightly better pricing for some older models.

Apple is only partnering with Phobio for Mac trade-ins at the current time. For PC trade-ins, Apple continues to work with PowerOn, and for iPad and iPhone trade-ins, Apple is still using longtime partner Brightstar.


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Apple Issues $1 Billion Green Bond Sale to Fund Renewable Energy

Apple today issued a $1 billion green bond to fund renewable energy generation, according to Bloomberg.


Apple reportedly said it plans to use the proceeds to finance projects involving renewable energy resources and energy efficiency, including advancing its goal of achieving a closed-loop supply chain, through which products are made using only renewable resources and recycled material.

By turning to the debt market, Apple is able to fund its sustainability initiatives without tapping into its offshore cash reserves. Those dollars would be subjected to a 35 percent corporate tax rate if they were repatriated in the United States.

U.S. President Donald Trump has reportedly proposed offering a one-time tax holiday where companies like Apple can repatriate large amounts of foreign cash at a reduced tax rate of between 10 and 15 percent. But, as of this month, the relevant corporate tax laws have yet to be reformed in the country.

Apple's bond offering comes just two weeks after Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris climate accord, an agreement signed by over 140 countries that vow to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in an effort to mitigate climate change. Apple CEO Tim Cook said Trump's decision was "wrong for our planet."

An excerpt of Cook's internal memo to Apple employees:
Climate change is real and we all share a responsibility to fight it. I want to reassure you that today's developments will have no impact on Apple's efforts to protect the environment. We power nearly all of our operations with renewable energy, which we believe is an example of something that's good for our planet and makes good business sense as well.
Apple's preliminary prospectus supplement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission today confirms the bonds will mature in 2027. The sale was arranged by Goldman Sachs, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, and J.P. Morgan.

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Apple CEO Tim Cook Urges U.S. President to Stay in Paris Climate Pact

Amid rumors suggesting U.S. President Donald Trump plans to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement, multiple tech CEOs have been urging him not to do so, reports Bloomberg.

On Tuesday, Apple CEO Tim Cook called the White House to ask the president not to abandon the agreement, which is a 195-nation pact committed to cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions and reducing global warming. Under the terms of the pact, the United States commits to reducing carbon emissions by 26 to 28 percent over the course of the next decade.

Apple CEO Tim Cook at the Executive Tech Summit at Trump Tower in December of 2016

Trump, who said he opposes "draconian climate rules" during his presidential campaign, announced this morning that he would make his decision on the accord "over the next few days." Officials who spoke to the New York Times said a decision has not yet been made, but Trump is expected to withdraw on the grounds that the accord would harm the economy and impact job creation in areas like Appalachia and the West.

A senior White House official cautioned that the specific language of the president's expected announcement was still in flux Wednesday morning. The official said the withdrawal might be accompanied by legal caveats that will shape the impact of Mr. Trump's decision.
Over the course of the last several years, Apple has become increasingly committed to reducing its environmental impact and running its business on 100 percent renewable energy. Most recently, Apple announced plans to pursue a closed-loop supply chain where its products would be built entirely from recyclable materials.


Along with Cook, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has asked Trump not to withdraw the United States from the Paris Accord. In a tweet, Musk said he's done all he can to influence Trump's decision, and in a followup tweet, Musk said he would leave the White House advisory councils he participates in should Trump choose to leave the accord.

Many other White House officials and companies are attempting to persuade Trump before he makes a final decision. In early May, CEOs from 30 companies sent an open letter pointing out the potential for negative trade implications should the U.S. exit the Paris agreement, and on Thursday, 25 major companies, including Intel, Apple, Google, Microsoft, will publish a full-page pro-accord letter in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

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Apple Releases New Earth Day Video at Sustainable Brands Event

Apple today shared a new Earth Day 2017 video on its YouTube channel, which comes more than a month after Earth Day took place.

The video, which follows the theme of the previous Earth Day spots Apple released, focuses on Liam, Apple's recycling robot that strips iPhones down to their component parts.


The ad was created by Apple environment lead Lisa Jackson and her team to mark Apple's attendance at Sustainable Brands 2017, a Detroit conference for business leaders committed to brand value creation through sustainability.

Sarah Chandler, Apple's Director of Operations and Environmental Initiatives, was in Detroit to speak at the event, where she talked about Apple's latest pledge to achieve a closed-loop supply chain. Chandler works under Lisa Jackson and is responsible for Apple's effort to use greener materials, conserve finite resources, and reduce the environmental impact of the company's supply chain.


Apple first announced its goal to use 100 percent recycled materials for products ahead of Earth Day, with the publishing of its 2017 Environmental Responsibility Report. Apple's eventual goal is to stop mining the earth for rare minerals and metals by focusing more heavily on recycled products.

"We're actually doing something we rarely do, which is announce a goal before we've figured out how to do it," Lisa Jackson said in April. "So we're a little nervous, but we also think it's really important, because as a sector we believe it's where technology should be going."

Liam, the robot featured in today's extra Earth Day video, will play an important role helping Apple reach its goal. Apple plans to double down on technologies like Liam, as well as put more effort into emphasizing its Apple Renew recycling program.


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Apple Pledges to End Mining and Use 100% Recycled Materials for Products

Just ahead of Earth Day, Apple has released its 2017 Environmental Responsibility Report [PDF] with a lofty new goal: ending mining. Apple says the company is working on a "closed-loop supply chain" that would allow it to stop mining the earth for rare minerals and metals.

"One day, we'd like to be able to build new products with just recycled materials, including your old products," Apple says on its updated Environment site. In an interview with VICE, Apple vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives Lisa Jackson commented on the mining plan, saying "it's where technology should be going."

"We're actually doing something we rarely do, which is announce a goal before we've completely figured out how to do it," Apple's Vice President of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives and a former head of the EPA, Lisa Jackson, told VICE News during an exclusive visit to Apple's environmental testing lab on Monday. "So we're a little nervous, but we also think it's really important, because as a sector we believe it's where technology should be going.
Much of what goes into an iPhone isn't recycled, but Apple wants to change that by more aggressively using components taken from old iPhones and combining that with "high quality recycled metals" purchased from suppliers. Apple will double down on investments like Liam, the robot that breaks iPhones down into component parts, and it plans to continue to encourage customers to return products through the Apple Renew recycling program.


While Apple plans to source more of its materials from recycled goods, Jackson says that though a "product that lasts is really important," the company doesn't have plans to make its devices easier to repair to increase longevity.
Jackson also defended Apple's history of making products that are hard to repair. Allowing customers to repair Apple products themselves "sounds like an easy thing to say," she said. But "technology is really complex; it is sophisticated to make it work, to ensure that you have security and privacy, [and] that somebody isn't giving you bad parts."

Because of this, Apple won't be taking a "right to repair" approach to meeting its environmental goals. "All those things mean that you want to have certified repairs," Jackson said.
Other environmental milestones are also outlined in Apple's report. 96 percent of the power used by Apple facilities around the world comes from clean energy sources, and as has been the case for several years, 100 percent of the electricity that powers Apple data centers comes from solar, hydro, and wind energy sources.


Apple now has seven suppliers that have committed to using renewable energy, and the company plans to help suppliers bring 4 gigawatts of renewable power online by 2020.


When it comes to packaging, more than 99 percent of the packaging used for Apple products is responsibly sourced. Virgin paper is sourced from protected sustainable forests, and the company has successfully protected or created enough working forests to cover all of its packaging needs.

Lisa Jackson's full comments on the 2017 environmental report can be read over at VICE, and Apple's full Environmental Responsibility Report, which goes into much more detail on its recycling efforts, packaging, water usage, and carbon footprint, is available here.


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Three More Apple Suppliers Commit to Using 100 Percent Renewable Energy

Three additional Apple suppliers, including Compal Electronics, Sunwoda Electronic, and Biel Crystal Manufactory, have promised to use 100 percent renewable energy when manufacturing iPhone components, Apple VP of Environment, Policy, and Social Initiatives Lisa Jackson told Bloomberg in an interview.

96 percent of the energy Apple uses comes from renewable sources like wind and solar, allowing the company to reduce its carbon footprint, and in 26 countries, Apple facilities are powered with 100 percent renewable energy. With much of its own company using renewable energy, Apple has started focusing on its suppliers to further its sustainability efforts.

"We look at our carbon footprint as so much more than just our office, our data centers, our stores, even our distribution centers," Jackson told Bloomberg Television. "All that's included in our 96 percent, but now we're moving onto our supply chain."
Late last month, Apple promised to honor the commitment it made under the Obama administration to fight climate change, and today, Jackson said Apple plans to continue on its path and make its values known to the Trump administration, which has started to rescind environmental rules and protections.
"One thing this administration has made clear is that they want to hear from business and so we're going to do everything we can to make our values known," Jackson said.
Along with Compal Electronics, Sunwoda Electronic, and Biel Crystal Manufactory, four other suppliers have committed to using clean energy: Lens Technology, Solvay Specialty Polymers, Catcher Technology, and Ibiden. In March, Apple said that by the end of 2018, the company and its supplier partners expect to generate more than 2.5 billion kilowatt hours of clean energy per year.

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Apple Reiterates Commitment to Obama Era Climate Pledge

Apple has said it will honor the commitment it made under the Obama administration to fight climate change, regardless of actions by President Trump to dismantle his predecessor's environmental policies (via Bloomberg).

Back in April 2016, Apple, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft filed an amicus brief in support of the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan, which aimed to cut carbon pollution produced by power generators, despite pushback from energy companies. Earlier this week, Trump signed an order telling the EPA to rescind the Clean Power Plan and reconsider all Obama era climate rules, including those relating to building leases and oil pipelines.


In response to Trump's order, Apple, Amazon, Google and Microsoft issued a joint statement signaling their continued determination to cut energy costs and address the risks posed by climate change to future business growth.
"We believe that strong clean energy and climate policies, like the Clean Power Plan, can make renewable energy supplies more robust and address the serious threat of climate change while also supporting American competitiveness, innovation, and job growth," the companies said in a joint statement after Trump's order was signed.
Procter & Gamble, Nestle, Ikea, Levi Strauss & Co., and Best Buy, which all signed the 2015 pledge organized by the Obama administration, also said they still intended to honor their commitments.

The pledges comes despite support for Trump's order from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which called it "vital to stimulating economic growth". The group argues that Obama's regulations risk a jump in energy prices, and that they have already held back growth by preventing the construction of pipelines, roads, and other infrastructure. The Independent Petroleum Association of America, which represents oil and natural gas producers, also praised Trump's move.

Apple's renewed commitment to the Obama era pledge is in line with its overarching aim to become a global clean energy company. More than 93 percent of Apple's worldwide operations are said to be powered by renewable energy. Earlier this month, it announced that component supplier Ibiden would become the first company in Japan to guarantee all of its Apple manufacturing will be powered by 100 percent renewable energy. Chinese suppliers have agreed similar commitments.

Beyond manufacturing, Apple's new headquarters in California will be powered by one of the largest onsite corporate solar energy installations in the world. Likewise, all of the company's data centers are powered by 100 percent renewable energy, as are 145 of its U.S. retail stores, and the large majority of its corporate facilities.

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Apple Sees Success With Efforts to Protect Working Forests in North Carolina

Apple's partnership with The Conservation Fund to protect working forests has begun to show returns for both Apple and the state of North Carolina, according to information the organization shared with the Triangle Business Journal.

Apple vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives Lisa Jackson shared the article covering Apple's conservation efforts on Twitter this afternoon.



Jena Thompson Meredith, vice president of business partnerships at The Conservation Fund, says Apple's purchase of forest land in North Carolina and Maine has protected 36,000 acres of sustainable forest.
In 2016, the group harvested more than 13,000 metric tons of wood between the two forests, she says, though she did not break that number down by state.

She says the collective annual production from the forests in North Carolina and Maine was equivalent to about 30 percent of the virgin fiber used in Apple's product packaging for 2015.
With survey work, site prep, and harvesting and planting, the Brunswick Forest portion of the project has employed more than 30 people in logging operations in North Carolina, resulting in more than 10 jobs per 1,000 acres.

The effort has also protected North Carolina's Green Swamp Preserve, which is home to six rare species, including the Venus flytrap. Across 300 of the the 3,600 acres Apple purchased in North Carolina, The Conservation Fund has planted an additional 185,000 trees. 40 acres of those include the native longleaf pine and the Atlantic white cedar, both of which provide a home to a rare butterfly.

Apple first partnered with The Conservation Fund in April of 2015, purchasing thousands of acres of working forest for its paper supplies.

At the time, Apple said it was aiming to use paper more efficiently by increasing recycled paper content, sourcing paper sustainably, and conserving acreage of working forests around the world equivalent to its virgin paper footprint.

More than 99 percent of Apple's product packaging in 2015 came from paper that was recycled or sourced from sustainably managed forests, according to the company's 2016 environmental report.


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