Can Apple re-write green standards?

Apple's decision to yank its products from EPEAT certification could lead to a green coup of sorts in the consumer electronics space, as businesses and federal agencies push back against procurement regulations. The company's decision to withdraw from EPEAT registration means government agencies tied to EPEAT-approved hardware are forced to apply for special waivers, in a staff-bogging process described as "long" and "onerous" by experts. Meanwhile, while the process for time-consuming appeals monopolizes workers, Apple is pushing its own "comprehensive" set of environmental measurements.

San Francisco has become the first city to drop Apple as a hardware supplier, citing a 2007 policy that insists the majority of purchases of laptops and desktops must meet EPEAT guidelines. However, CIO Jon Walton confirmed, there are time-consuming loopholes in the regulations that individual agencies could take advantage of, including a waiver program. Administrators at two of San Francisco's biggest universities confirmed to CIO Journal that they were "reviewing their Apple purchases" though it's unclear whether they will decide their need for OS X is sufficient to undertake the "onerous" appeals system.

EPEAT is resolute that it represents the best balance of green technology, and while expressing disappointment that Apple had ditched its certification, refused to countenance any change of approvals policy:

"For participating electronics manufacturers, EPEAT is a chance to showcase and validate their greener design initiatives, cleaner production and customer support services. But EPEAT is more than simply a product rating – it is also a community effort by all interested stakeholders to define and maintain best practice in environmental sustainability for electronics.

We regret that Apple will no longer be registering its products in EPEAT. We hope that they will decide to do so again at some point in future" EPEAT

However, Apple maintains that its own adopted guidelines are significantly more stringent than those of EPEAT, and is pushing the angle that it, not the agency, should be listened to:

"Apple takes a comprehensive approach to measuring our environmental impact and all of our products meet the strictest energy efficiency standards backed by the US government, Energy Star 5.2" the company said in a statement. "We also lead the industry by reporting each product's greenhouse gas emissions on our website, and Apple products are superior in other important environmental areas not measured by EPEAT, such as removal of toxic materials" Apple

What remains to be seen is whether Apple – and the lure of Apple's products – can convince government agencies to petition in sufficient numbers that Executive Order 13423's clause insisting that "95-percent of electronic products purchased must meet Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool standards where applicable" is re-examined. The Cupertino company has yet to clarify exactly why it opted to leave EPEAT, though it's been speculated that its tablets and other mobile devices do not yet qualify for EPEAT approval.