It was reported this week that Apple have refused to include their iPhones in the UK’s first green-ranking scheme for mobile phones, launched in a partnership between O2 and  Forum for the Future.  There have always been things that have irked about Apple products, of course, such as the non-replaceable batteries (I’m all for sleek good looks, but like the BBC presenter who once proudly told me she was on diet consisting only of pickled beetroot, this is aesthetics gone too far), but Apple have acted in the past to improve their environmental performance in response to  campaigning.

I’m a long-term Apple fan, and part of the appeal has been the innovation and creativity applied to their products.  So why not apply that same openness and innovation to sustainability reporting?  I can’t pretend that I always investigate the eco-credentials of products before I buy, but even if I don’t read or remember the rest of a report, the absence of iPhones from a ranking that covers 93% of handsets available to users, is a memorable gap.

Information is important for consumers, and presenting it in a way that is accessible and relevant can inform purchasing decisions.  Many schemes rely on voluntary participation from companies, and this exposes a problem in terms of how to engage those businesses or organisations that refuse to disclose information – and no doubt there was a huge amount of work behind the scenes, to encourage Apple to take part in this scheme before they were ‘outed’ in the press.

Whether Apple’s decision not to participate is due to a poor ‘green’ ranking of the iPhone is unclear, but their message to current and future customers is more blunt.   Sustainability reporting by individual companies is important, but this abstracted data loses its value without a point of reference or comparison.  I don’t imagine that this lack of transparency will dent iPhone sales in the short term, but stories like this have a more intangible and intractable impact on the overall perception of a brand, and as customers, we may succeed in asking for information where others have failed.  So please, Apple, as someone with more of your products than Braeburns in my fruit bowl, open up and share a little.

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