Written by Bryan Schiele

Steve Jobs’ accomplishments as a tech innovator are undisputed, but not enough has been mentioned since his passing about his achievements in the green movement and a shift towards environmentally friendly electronics. SlickWear took great interest in a recent article written by Candace Lombardi on the CNET Blog Network explaining Jobs’ influence on the environmental impact of Apple’s products while he was CEO.

Jobs has left Apple with significantly greener products than its competitors, a mission that Apple is continuously striving to improve upon. But the backstory behind how Jobs battled with Greenpeace for several years about the “green-ness” of Apple’s products is quite interesting.

Starting in 2005, Apple was targeted by environmental watchdog groups regarding the use of toxic substances in its products. Not one to back down from public criticism and pressure, Jobs took the criticism to heart and conducted an internal audit of Apple’s recycling and manufacturing practices.

The result was Jobs’ environmental vision for Apple, called “A Greener Apple”, which explained that Apple had listened to the criticism and had already begun banning and restricting several toxic substances in its products, including mercury, cadmium, and hexavalent chromium. Jobs also acknowledged that Apple needed to increase its transparency regarding the company’s environmental efforts and would start disclosing all environmental details in an annual environmental report.

However, Jobs had to let it be known that he disagreed with some of Greenpeace’s practices and policies, particular focusing too much on the future and not enough on the present. In 2007, he publically addressed Greenpeace representatives to express his opinions, telling them, “I think your organization particularly depends too much on principle and not enough on fact. You guys rate people based on what people say their plans are in the distant future, not what they are doing today.”

In response, Greenpeace issued a report in October 2007 called “Missed Call: Apple’s iPhone’s Hazardous Chemeicals.” The report noted that Greenpeace conducted a laboratory analysis of Apple’s iPhone and found that Apple was in compliance with the European Union’s Restriction of Hazardous Substances in electronics years before the deadline to reach compliance with these regulations. Apple complied with the regulations by banning the use of lead, cadmium, mercury, chromium and brominated flame retardants in electronic products.

Since then, Jobs took steps to ensure that all MacBook models “have mercury-free LCD displays, arsenic-free display glass, polyvinyl chloride-free cables and components, and no internal components containing BFRs.”

In 2009, Jobs increased Apple’s transparency by creating an Apple Web site that tracks the company’s environmental efforts, offering statistics on Apple’s total carbon footprint as well as a breakdown of categories, including manufacturing, transportation, product use, recycling, and facilities. The improvements Apple has made in all of its environmental efforts under Jobs become evident while taking just a brief look at the statistics on the Web site.

In 2010, Greenpeace praised Apple and Jobs for the improvements made in just five years. By 2010, all Apple products were completely free of PVC plastics and BFRs, according to both Apple and Greenpeace.

Put simply, Steve Jobs was one of the greatest innovators this world has ever known, but his most important accomplishment might just be his swift and constant efforts to make peace with Greenpeace and the environment by dedicating a steady focus to Apple’s effect on the environment, a lesson that must remain a priority for Apple and all electronic companies into the future.


About Bryan Schiele

Bryan is currently a student at Colorado State University and will be completing his B.A. in Communication Studies in December 2011. Bryan has years of writing experience for various publications and has recently taken an interest in blogging. By working with SlickWear, Bryan hopes to bring to light some of the issues regarding global sustainability, social justice, nonprofit development, and the latest headlines concerning the green movement. Check back often to see what Bryan has to say!