Apple's Board Opposes Calls for Green Reforms

Apple's Board Opposes Calls for Green Reforms

[Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on BusinessGreen and is reprinted with permission.]

It may count Nobel Prize-winning climate change campaigner Al Gore among its number, but that has not stopped the board of IT giant Apple from opposing two shareholder petitions calling on the company to introduce new environmental governance measures.

Environmental group As You Sow is to repeat its effort of last year and table a petition at the company's forthcoming annual stockholder meeting on behalf of a group of Apple shareholders, including the influential New York City Office of the Comptroller, calling on the company to prepare a sustainability report by July 2010.

It will be accompanied by a second petition calling on Apple to form a specific board-level committee to address sustainability issues.

As You Sow will argue that more than 2,700 firms now issue environmental reports, including competitors of Apple such as Dell, IBM and HP. The petition will warn that Apple "lags behind global industry peers on sustainability reporting" and will call on it to produce an annual report providing details on how the company will "reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address other environmental and social impacts such as toxics, recycling and employee and product safety".

However, in a proxy filing released earlier this week, the board urges shareholders to reject the petitions when they come up for a vote at the company's annual meeting on 25 February.

It stated that it already takes adequate measures to report on its environmental performance, arguing that the sustainability information provided on its web site "represents the most comprehensive accounting of any electronics company's carbon footprint."

"The board believes that updates like these provide shareholders with a great deal of relevant information in a more timely manner than an annual report," it said, adding that the board already receives regular updates on sustainability issues and does not need a separate committee.

Despite the appointment of former vice president Al Gore and a reputation for tapping into the technology zeitgeist, Apple has had a fractious relationship with green groups in recent years.

The company has secured praise for improving the energy efficiency of its products and committing to phasing out a number of hazardous chemicals.

However, it angered green groups last year by rejecting a previous petition from As You Sow calling for the introduction of an annual sustainability report, and has faced consistent criticism over the non-removable batteries in its iconic iPods.

Moreover, the commitments to remove hazardous chemicals from Apple products were secured after a long-running and high-profile campaign from Greenpeace that culminated in chief executive Steve Jobs apologizing publicly for failing to clearly communicate the company's environmental policies.

Photo CC-licensed by Flickr user Guillermo.