Questions Remain about Apple's role in Agenda 21 Sustainability
by Judy Kent
Cupertino, CA/Washington, DC - At the 2013 annual meeting of Apple shareholders in Cupertino, California, Horace Cooper of the National Center for Public Policy Research asked Apple CEO Tim Cook if the computer giant will stand firm against the adoption of mandatory sustainability standards by trade associations to which Apple belongs - standards that could harm Apple.
Apple is a member of the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), one of the country's largest trade organizations. RILA is calling on its member companies to undertake expensive capital expenditures, restrict the use of the property they own and lobby local governments for more restrictive, mandatory building codes that would apply to everyone, not just RILA members.
Last summer, Apple temporarily withdrew from the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) sustainability registry, only to return a few days later after San Francisco announced it would no longer buy Apple computers and other cities and some universities said they were reviewing their policies. The current line of MacBook Pros were widely seen as not meeting the standards.
Apple's newest laptop, a MacBook Pro with a Retina display, ended up earning EPEAT's top "gold" certification after EPEAT was convinced that the standards should evolve, but the episode provided several lessons, one of which is that external ratings standards can deter innovation. Although Apple was able - somehow - to convince EPEAT to approve its newest design, it is unlikely that a smaller company, one without Apple's influence, would have moved forward with a product so contrary to the accepted standards.
"Environmental benchmarks are fine," said Horace Cooper , adjunct fellow of the National Center for Public Policy Research, "as a tool for consumers to voluntarily use when deciding what products to buy. But mandatory standards are anti-competitive, deter innovation and raise prices, and are difficult for smaller businesses to meet. Even worse is what RILA proposes, which weds mandatory standards on members and on members' suppliers, and requires mandatory lobbying by member companies for new, restrictive government regulations. One wonders if RILA is even aware that the engine of prosperity in America is its free market economy?"
"The United States has enough regulations on business already," said Justin Danhof, director of the National Center's Free Enterprise Project. "It doesn't need business associations forcing member businesses to lobby government for still more regulations. I hope Apple will stand up for free markets and free enterprise and take a lead role in deterring mandatory standards by any trade association it is affiliated with, including RILA."
The National Center for Public Policy Research is an Apple shareholder.