After reading today’s announcements of the Webby Awards I’ve become the 45,297th subscriber to Greenpeace’s emails about their Green My Apple campaign. Not only that, but I’ve engaged in a cheeky bit of cyber activism by hugging my mac (which I could do from the comfort of our lounge). You can see a dodgy photo of me doing that on a Green My Apple photo map on flickr (another webby winner) along with photos from another 140 people around the planet. Look for a photo from Wellington.
These two examples demonstrate the creativity behind the campaign and help to explain why the website Greenpeace won the award for the activism category (the first of nearly 70 categories). Other novel online campaign activities include inviting the public to design tv and print ads then making them available online, producing a satirical video that can be emailed to friends, and making loads of logos and pictures for people use any which way.
As an owner of an Apple I cringed when I read the Apple coprporation is being environmentally and socially negligent. My instant reaction was, I’ve got to do something to compensate. I’m not sure if planting trees would assuage my guilt but it’s worth a try.
As I read on, I thought I had better look at an imposing heading right in the the middle of the GreenMyApple homepage. Somehow I had ignored a bold heading reporting that Apple CEO Steve Jobs had announced changes to policies. How I missed that when I first visited the website I’m not sure but I was pleased with what I read. On 2 May, the same day Webby awards were announced, Greenpeace said that Apple are introducing policies “to bring us closer to the greener apple that Mac users all over the world have been asking for” (see “Tasty News from Apple”).
The GreenMyApple campaign was set-up to put pressure on Apple to dramatically reduce the negative environmental and social impacts of the production and disposal of its computers. Apple received the lowest ranking in Greenpeace’s “Guide to Green Electronics” published 3 April 2007. Just 2.7 out of 10.
Here’s a summary of the Greenpeace analysis:
For a company that claims to lead on product design, it is perhaps surprising to find Apple languishing at the bottom of the scorecard. While other laggards have moved upwards in the Guide, Apple has made no changes to its policies or practices since the launch of the Guide in August 2006. The company scores badly on almost all criteria. Apple fails to embrace the precautionary principle, withholds its full list of regulated substances and provides no timelines for eliminating toxic polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and no commitment to phasing out all uses of brominated flame retardants (BFRs). Apple performs poorly on product take back and recycling, but it does report on the amounts of its electronic waste recycled.
All this goes to show that good research, an active group of supporters and a highly visible campaign can bring about change. I guess it’s important to make sure Apple sticks to the greener policies they’ve announced. With so many people williing to give up some of their time and energy, I’m pretty sure this will be possible.
Update 20 May 2007: In this week’s Listener Russell Brown lays out an alternative interpretation of Greenpeace’s claims about Apple’s environmental record. Referring to a blog article published in September last year under the pithy title “Greenpeace Lies About Apple”, Brown says Greenpeace got it wrong. The argument goes that by relying on public statements about environmental performance rather than scientific analysis an incorrect conclusion was reached. Apparently Apple have all along had okay environmental standards but they’ve kept it (strangely) silent. Good to hear this is coming into the open, and it’s also pleasing Greenpeace made a big fuss about the seeming poor record. Corporates need to pin their environmental and social values to their sleeves and shout loudly about how good they are and aspire to be. This will put pressure on other companies that don’t measure up, and make it easier for people buying stuff to make informed choices.