Apple Computer Clashes With Greenpeace: Greenpeace Evicted
In the public consciousness, Apple computer is staffed by clever, idealistic employees who manage to create software and utilities much better than arch rival and dominant market leader Microsoft. Many people only buy computers from Apple because they believe market competition is good for society. Greenpeace is credited with the same virtues and is held in similarly high regard.
When Greenpeace was evicted from an Apple Mac Expo in London last month, Techgoss put the following questions to UK-based Greenpeace International Toxics Campaigner Iza Kruszewska who was in the thick of action. This is the Greenpeace version of the story.
Q. How did Greenpeace get the idea about taking a stall at the Apple computers Mac Expo in London on Oct 26-28 last month ?
A. (Iza Kruszewska) Greenpeace has been in dialogue with Apple since 2003 trying to get the company to improve its policy and practice on chemicals, and later also on waste. With the release of the Guide to Greener Electronics, that ranks top mobile and PC manufacturers on their performance with respect to chemicals and waste, Apple came 11th out of 14. See:
Clearly, we were not managing to change Apple.
This is when we decided to engage Mac users to help us get the message to Apple to up their game on these issues. In late September, we launched an Apple spoof site at: www.greenmyapple.org to enable Mac fans to send their own message to Steve. The Mac Expo in London, October 26-28, provided another opportunity to engage directly with Apple fans.
Q. What would Greenpeace like Apple computer to do?
A. Greenpeace wants Apple to phase out all harmful substances in its products. As a first step, we want Apple to launch products that are free of vinyl plastic (PVC, used as insulation in cabling and wiring) and contain no brominated flame retardants (BFRs, used primarily in circuit boards). Our challenge to Apple is to put these products on the market in 2007. Other PC companies, such as Dell, Samsung and LG Electronics have already committed to putting PVC-free and BFR-free products on the market with timelines – Dell by 2009.
We also want Apple to take back and responsibly reuse/recycle their products wherever in the world they are sold. Both HP and Dell are already way ahead of Apple in taking responsibility for their discarded products.
Q Can you give us a full account of what happened at the Expo ? What were the events that lead to you being thrown out ? Did you every feel physically threatened ?
A. We arrived at the expo on Thursday morning (26th Oct) to set up the stall just before the expo opened at 10am. Outside the expo, our volunteers off-loaded boxes of organic English apples (russets, jonagold, coxes) that would be handed out to punters both outside the expo and inside from our stall.
Everything went well. We engaged with visitors to the expo by offering them organic apples and a flyer informing them about the spoof site and what we expect from Apple. Inside, visitors signed up to the greenmyapple campaign and sent messages to Steve. Of course, there were a few punters, one was a Mac consultant, another a Greenpeace-hater who wanted nothing to do with our campaign.
One was a woman with a baby in a sling, an Apple consultant, who allowed herself and baby plus organic apple, to be filmed by our photographer. I tried to engage with her on our expectations of Apple with respect to their chemicals and waste policies, but she would have none of it, claiming that Apple Macs last much longer than PCs. We finished the conversation with her demanding that the photos of her with the baby not be used. I saw to it that our photographer deleted the photos immediately.
Around 1pm, one of the organisers came rushing to the stall to inform us that we need to close up shop, because he had received complaints from other exhibitors and we were not playing by the rules of our contract.
Myself, as the campaigner and the actions co-ordinator Paul met with the organisers in their office to try and resolve the problem. We were told that there had been complaints about us from 4 exhibitors and 4 visitors. We were accused of ‘trespassing’ beyond the immediate vicinity of our stall and that permission to distribute organic apples just inside the entrance to the expo was rescinded. Fine. Sorted, we were allowed to stay on….
….But not for long. Just after 2pm – just some 4 hours into the expo – 2 organisers plus security descended to evict us from the expo. Myself and Paul attempted to address their concerns through dialogue, but they were determined to close us down. It all got a bit violent. One security guard pulled the hair of our volunteer as he dragged him out of the stall; the other launched himself at the video camera to stop the recording of the aggression.
We finally left around 2.30pm on the first day of the expo, but we were back the next day, outside – setting up a stand with our images of Apple e-waste from China, our Green Mac Guy (cardboard cut-out) and of course our organic apples.
Q. Greenpeace has tens of millions of admirers around the world. Apple only has 5 percent of the market, but has won lots of respect in the IT industry. Why did you protest against Apple ? Have other PC companies done more environmentally positive things than Apple ?
A. Apple scores very poorly on our Guide to Greener Electronics and clearly, our dialogue with Apple wasn’t getting us anywhere in trying to change Apple. See Campaign history at: http://www.greenmyapple.com/itox.html
We were not protesting against Apple, rather, encouraging them to do better. We love Apple and we expect more from them than they’ve delivered so far on environmental issues. They’re a smart company that listens to its customers, which is why we went out to engage with Mac users, to help us green Apple.
Companies such as Dell, Nokia, Samsung, LGE and Sony Ericsson have committed to a stronger chemicals policy, have provided timelines to eliminating PVC and brominated flame retardants. Apple will not even publish the List of Restricted Substances in its products.
On taking responsibility for its own brand discarded products by taking them back from customers and reusing/recycling responsibly, HP, Dell and Nokia are way ahead of Apple.