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Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has announced that it will rejoin EPEAT less than a week after it was withdrawing from the environmental standards organization.
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The Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool, or EPEAT, is a certifying body that helps institutional purchasers select and compare electronic devices. Its standards are concentrated largely on the life cycle of a device — that is, not so much how much power it uses, but how easily it can be recycled, how easily parts can be replaced, or how easily repairs can be made.
Apple has been the target of much criticism of late for creating devices that are difficult to disassemble and repair. So when the company announced it would withdraw from EPEAT, the general assumption was that Apple already knew that some of its devices would not be able to gain or keep certification.
But in so doing, Apple was also ruling itself out of a number of governmental contracts, as a Bush-era ruling requires that Federal electronics purchases must be made from among EPEAT qualified vendors and equipment. Similar rules cover public procurement in the U.K., Canada, and other countries.
With such a massive consumer base, Apple may have thought those contracts were negligible, but there’s no denying that Apple products in the workplace help create loyal Apple users by exposing people to products with which they may otherwise have had little to no familiarity. And while that may not be an easily quantifiable benefit of government contracts, there’s no denying it plays some role in Apple’s successes.
Apple’s recent decision to rejoin means that, however marginal such government purchases are from Apple’s view, the public sector can again safely purchase their kit — at least, those products of Apple’s that meet EPEAT standards. It remains to be seen whether the new MacBook Pro with Retina Display will be granted approval — iFixit called it the least repairable laptop yet after cracking it open to discover that the RAM is soldered to the logic board, the proprietary SSD isn’t upgradeable, and the lithium-polymer battery is glued rather than screwed into the case, among other things.
In fact, the new MacBook Pro with Retina Display may have been Apple’s reason for withdrawing from EPEAT in the first place. The timing itself is cause for such speculation, but further, Apple may have hoped that by withdrawing from EPEAT, it might have somehow influenced future environmental standards in a way that would make them more favorable toward Apple’s newest and still-to-come products.
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