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Why Apple was bad for the environment (and why that's changing)

David Price | June 5, 2013
From self-centred hippyism to corporate responsibility: it's been a long journey for Apple

There was actually something quite self-centred about Steve Jobs' hippy philosophy, more self-actualisation than universal love (could this have been inherited from his one-time idol and fellow enlightenment seeker Robert Friedland, whose commune-style farm Jobs left over a grievance that unpaid workers were being exploited?). Certainly Jobs' managerial style would make more sense viewed through the former lens. If an employee didn't measure up, Jobs didn't worry too much about his or her well-being: it was straight out of the door.

It's well known that Steve Jobs was capable of moulding the facts to fit his own view of the world. My own take is that Jobs was absolutely convinced that he was doing good in the world, and that it never occurred to him - at least until Greenpeace blasted a hole through the reality distortion field - that his company was one of the bad guys. In a benign sort of way, he thought laws didn't apply to him. Why would the principles of sustainable industry be any different?

Cult Of Mac calls Robert Friedland an 'LSD love guru'. Funnily enough he had his own problems with the green lobby. Many years after they fell out, Steve Jobs called him "symbolically, and in reality, a gold miner".

Conclusion: a green Apple should be celebrated
Some recent press coverage might suggest otherwise, but Apple isn't going anywhere soon. It's going to remain among the first rank of global corporations, creating and selling vast numbers of high-tech products. It has the power to do a great deal of damage to the Earth.

It's for this reason that we should celebrate the direction Apple has taken since coming bottom of the class in that 2006 Greenpeace report. It's certainly not perfect: a year ago, long after pledging greater transparency, Apple made the misstep of removing its products from the EPEAT certification system, although it wisely restored them a month later. And it can do more to monitor the practices of its suppliers (although as usual, every story about irresponsible corporate behaviour by an Apple supplier should be scanned for the list of non-Apple vendors equally involved but left to the 15th paragraph because they make for less exciting copy). But overall it's a lot closer to the sort of company you'd expect a couple of long-haired idealists to build.

 

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