Apple Challenged to Recognize Flaws in Sustainability Standards

Published March 10, 2013

Apple CEO Tim Cook is being challenged to stand firm against a controversial trade association’s aggressive campaign to have its members implement costly “sustainability” programs that will do little if any good for the environment.

Apple is a member of the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), which is urging its members to purchase expensive equipment, restrict the use of their property, and lobby local governments to enact mandatory building codes that will raise business costs but have little if any positive environmental impact.

Horace Cooper, an adjunct fellow of the National Center for Public Policy Research, presented these concerns to Cook and Apple at a February 27 Apple shareholder meeting. The National Center is an Apple shareholder.

“RILA has launched a massive market- and labor-distorting campaign dubbed ‘sustainability,'” Cooper explained in written comments presented to Apple. “Under this so-called sustainability campaign, it is currently pressuring its members to make unaffordable capital expenditures that have limited prospects for a reasonable return. RILA also advocates that its members lobby for changes in local building codes or infrastructures that will increase the cost of buildings and result in significant restrictions on the use of property. Finally, RILA is advocating top-down ‘sustainability’ standards that go beyond its own members, affecting the entire supply chain, despite the likelihood that these standards will increase suppliers’ costs and in turn the costs of the goods that they sell. In some cases those increased costs will have to be passed along to consumers in the form of higher prices. In other cases, American companies may be pushed out of the supply chain altogether. Neither is good for Apple or the consumer.”

“Environmental benchmarks are fine as a tool for consumes to voluntarily use when deciding what products to buy,” said Cooper in a press statement accompanying his remarks. “But mandatory standards are anti-competitive, deter innovation and raise prices, and are difficult for smaller businesses to meet.”

James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is managing editor of Environment & Climate News.