What is Greenpeace thinking?

Greenpeace seem hellbent on waging a war with Apple over their environmental credentials. It’s a bit of an odd move in my mind…and dare I say it a cynical ploy designed to garner media coverage. If you look at most cause related groups, they typically try to appeal to a youth audience. So I’m left scratching my head when Greenpeace get vocal about the makers of the iPod and the iPhone, the iconic devices of the ‘yoof of today’.

Looks like I’m not the only one that reckons Greenpeace are out to get a few column inches, Wired point out that they have been excellent at garnering attention over the years.

In my mind though it’s the wrong sort of attention. Wired’s Dylan Tweney argues that ‘Apple’s fanbase has more than its share of carbon-neutral, granola-eating enviro hippies, so Greenpeace’s attack is a classic “wedge” issue (What do you love more: Your iPhone? Or THE PLANET?).

However the move will also have the effect on Greenpeace’s student audience – what do you love more: Your iPhone? Or Greenpeace. Answers on a postcard for who is going to win that popularity contest 😀 Seriously unless Apple release a version of the iPod that doubles as a baby seal club, there’s no chance in hell that Greenpeace will be successful in their attempt to make Apple products the next SUV.

Some commentary from Nick Carr earlier in the week really drives this home:

The student rebels are back. College campuses, which have remained largely unstirred by the Iraq War, global warming, and the other geopolitical controversies of the day, are emerging from their slumbers, as a new generation of protesters begins to organize and mobilize. It’s not the fight against war or pollution or genocide that’s behind the new movement. It’s the battle to protect our right to download pop songs for free.

Zachary McCune, a sophomore at Brown and cofounder of the school’s chapter of the anti-copyright group Students for Free Culture, puts it all into perspective in an interview with the New York Times:

“People wonder why college students aren’t rallying more around the Iraq war. If there were a draft, we probably would be. Students are so quick to fight for this cause because we’re the ones bearing the burden.”

And what a burden it is.

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9 Responses to “What is Greenpeace thinking?”  

  1. 1 Tom

    Hi Piaras,

    Maybe a bit of reading of our website might give you a better idea of what we are thinking. We are not waging war on Apple, even if many media like to play up Greenpeace v Apple line and write headlines like Greenpeace war on Apple.

    Apple is a design and innovation leader with a huge loyal following. Hence our very well know and widely praised Green my Apple campaign from 2006-7 with it’s slogan “I love my Mac, I just wish it came in green”



    The iPhone testing is a follow up to this to see how Apple is doing in relation to its promises made in response to our campaign.

    We are pushing Apple to match its images of a clean innovative company with better environmental practices so all Apple fans have even more reason to be proud of their Apple. Also if Apple was an environmental leader other companies would follow their lead.


  2. 2 Piaras

    Hmm Tom strange that when I visit your website I can’t see similar pages set up for other IT companies and the iPhone is a prominent news story on your website as opposed to mobile phones in general.

    Prehaps if you ranked IT companies similar to what you’re doing with Apple then they might try to compete with each other and try top the green league.

  3. 3 Tom

    So you’d mean something like our much publicised Guide to Greener Electronics? Now its 5th edition and linked from the bottom of our iPhone story with this text (and the names of the other companies link to their specific ranking):

    “Compare Apple’s environmental policy and practice to other companies.”


    Just a summary of relevant numbers from the 14 ranked companies

    Nokia 8/10
    Sony Ericsson 7.7
    Motorola 6.7

    Apple 5.3
    Hewlett Packard 5.3
    Panasonic 5

    Compare that to the first version to see how our work has cause them to do exactly as you said – “compete with each other and try top the green league”


  4. 4 Piaras

    That’s quality.

    Just wondering where HP and Panasonic’s specific pages are seeing as they rank worse than Apple. Couldn’t seem to find them on the site.

  5. 5 Chris Kelly
  6. 6 Ged


    The concern I have with Greenpeace is their history of lies and half-truths outlined in the Wikipedia article Criticisms of Greenpeace.


    It makes me less likely to listen to them when they have something interesting and relevant to say.


    I personally won’t bother paying any attention to them until they make a full and frank disclosure of when they have been inaccurate and how they will rectify this moving forward.


    It reminds me of the bit at the end of Animal Farm where the old horse looks from man to pig and can’t tell the difference between them.

  7. 7 Piaras

    Another interesting report as a follow on to this story from textually.org – http://www.textually.org/textually/archives/2007/10/017708.htm

    A chemical industry group has lashed out against Greenpeace, condemning the environmental lobby group for making unfair criticism. Reuters.
    “… The Bromine Science and Environmental Forum (BSEF), the international organization of the bromine chemical industry, points out that none of the substances Greenpeace is criticizing Apple for deploying in the device are banned under existing environmental law.

    “All the substances reported by Greenpeace are approved for use, and provide critical performance and safety functions in a wide range of electronic products,” the organization countered.”

  8. 8 Piaras

    And from Gizmodo also – http://gizmodo.com/gadgets/apple/electronics-industry-analyst-group-dismisses-greenpeace-claims-on-iphone-313411.php

    First Apple dismissed Greenpeace’s claims, saying they are still in the process of eliminating PVC and brominated flame retardants from their products. Now an electronics industry analyst group says that Greenpeace study is not only alarmist, since all substances are approved for use by EU regulatory requirements (the strongest in the world) but also has a faulty methodology:

    The Greenpeace report does not say which BFRs are present in the iPhone because it does not know. As the report notes, the analytical equipment used for their report can only detect the presence of an element, such as bromine, but not specific chemicals. Therefore, the report speculates about what substances might be present, and raises an alarm without any basis for doing so.

    Greenpeace claimed they used XRF (X-Ray Fluorescence spectrometry) to analyze the contents of the iPhone, but apparently this method can only detect basic elements on the components’ surfaces “rather than specific chemicals in specific concentrations.”

    The report also claims that Greenpeace fails to highlight the fact that, right now, there are no alternatives as effective as BFRs to prevent fires in consumer electronics. Also, according to the EMSnow article, since the iPhone complies with all European Union legislation, “the BFR most likely used in the iPhone is actually a reactive—i.e. it reacts with other substances to form a plastic and, once reacted, it is also no longer available to the environment.”

    While the article, coming from the industry, is as impartial as the Greenpeace Corporation’s report, and only deals with bromine but not the rest of the allegedly hazardous substances present in the iPhone (and other cellphones) according to Greenpeace, it raises reasonable concerns over the organization’s research methodology.

  9. 9 Robert Synnott

    Remember that this is the same group which put out a shock ad campaign showing a plane hitting Sizewell B nuclear plant (generally considered plane-proof), but couldn’t seem to care less about big coal plants which actually DO kill people.

    You shouldn’t expect much sense for them; these days they mostly go with what will get them in the media.

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