Steve Jobs had a hand in another lesser-known Apple achievement: more environmentally friendly electronics.
Apple and environmental watchdog group Greenpeace waged a public battle over how “green” Apple’s products were over several years while Jobs was CEO. Environmental groups continue to pressure Apple to improve on some issues, but Apple’s products today do not have the toxic chemicals that were there before regulations and environmental groups prodded the electronics industry to change.
In 2005, Apple was slammed by environmental watchdog groups over product recycling policies, and in 2006, Greenpeace targeted Apple over concerns regarding the use of toxic substances in its products. That led to an internal audit of Apple’s recycling and electronics manufacturing practices.
Jobs stood up for the company’s environmental efforts when compared to competitors, but agreed changes needed to be made and communication about Apple’s policies could be more transparent. In 2007, Jobs unveiled an environmental vision for Apple he called “A Greener Apple.” In it, Jobs noted that Apple had already begun restricting, and in some cases banning altogether, toxic substances mercury, cadmium, and hexavalent chromium.
“Apple has been criticized by some environmental organizations for not being a leader in removing toxic chemicals from its new products, and for not aggressively or properly recycling its old products. Upon investigating Apple’s current practices and progress towards these goals, I was surprised to learn that in many cases Apple is ahead of, or will soon be ahead of, most of its competitors in these areas,” Jobs said in the disclosure.
Jobs pointed out changes Apple had made in past years, but had never before shared publicly. Apple had phased out CRTs by mid-2006 replacing them with LCDs, met the European Union’s Restriction of Hazardous Substances in electronics (RoHS) rules years before the EU deadline for compliance, and had steadily increased its e-waste recycling rate since 1994. Apple had also been phasing out polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic since in the 1990s, and restricting the use of brominated flame retardants (BFRs) in its products in 2001, according to Jobs.
The document went on to lay out substance by substance, what toxic chemicals were in Apple products and why, and a timeline for when many of them would be eliminated. Apple also agreed to start doing a yearly environmental assessment it would share with the public.
“Our stakeholders deserve and expect more from us, and they’re right to do so. They want us to be a leader in this area, just as we are in the other areas of our business. So today we’re changing our policy,” said Jobs.