The Apple-Greenpeace "dirty cloud" saga is took a step in a positive direction, albeit a small one.
In an update to Greenpeace's environmental scorecard of the IT industry's biggest cloud services providers, the group bumped Apple's energy transparency and infrastructure siting grades from a failing grade of F to a barely passing D. Likewise, Greenpeace awarded Apple better grades for energy efficiency and greenhouse gas mitigation (from D to C) and renewables and advocacy (also from D to C).
While hardly a glowing report card, it's an improvement over April's scathing rankings, which locked the environmental group and the computer maker into a war of words. At the time, Greenpeace campaigner Casey Harrell wrote on the group's website, "Apple, Amazon and Microsoft are powering their growing 21st-century clouds with dirty, 19th-century coal energy."
At the center of the controversy was Apple's massive iCloud data center in Maiden, N.C. Greenpeace asserted that the facility would rely on carbon-spewing, coal-fueled power plants for a hefty portion of its energy needs.
Apple moved swiftly to set the record straight and further pledged that three data centers would soon be completely powered by renewable sources. This satisfied Greenpeace, at least enough to boost its scores.
"Apple receives improved grades in this updated scorecard for its increased use of on-site renewable energy in North Carolina," says Greenpeace.
Yet Apple's reluctance to show all its cards won't earn the tech company glowing scores any time soon, according to Greenpeace. "However, given Apple’s continued lack of transparency and absence of a commitment to expand its cloud with renewable energy, including a siting policy that covers future data centre facilities, Apple still finds itself behind other companies such as Facebook and Google," adds Greenpeace.
The news arrives as Apple attempts to distance itself from the controversial decision to pull out of the EPEAT registry of eco-friendly PCs and accessories. The U.S. federal government mandates that 95 percent of the PCs purchased by its agencies carry EPEAT certification.
Apple today reversed its decision. A letter from Bob Mansfield, senior vice president of hardware engineering, states, "Starting today, all eligible Apple products are back on EPEAT."
"Our relationship with EPEAT has become stronger as a result of this experience, and we look forward to working with EPEAT as their rating system and the underlying IEEE 1680.1 standard evolve," writes Mansfield. "Our team at Apple is dedicated to designing products that everyone can be proud to own and use," he adds.
Apple's absence would have kept the company out of contention for most federal IT purchasing, along with purchasing by other institutions and local governments with similar policies. The city of San Francisco entered the fray by indicating that it would not have approved purchases of Apple PCs and laptops if the company's wares did not appear on EPEAT.