4. Don’t underestimate consumer power in enforcing corporate sustainability: Apple u-turns on EPEAT after public criticism
Last year once again revealed the power of consumers, supercharged by social media, to hold even the biggest, most powerful brands to account.
In July, Apple announced that it would no longer register its products withEPEAT, the Electrical Products Environmental Assessment Tool – assumed to be linked to its new products being unlikely to meet EPEAT criteria. The decision prompted a ban of Apple products by San Francisco procurement city officials. On the face of it, with local officials spending a mere $45,579 on Apple technologies, a boycott represented a drop in the ocean compared to $65bn in annual sales, and Apple stood its ground.
But the company misunderstood the statement they were making by ditching EPEAT certification – which many took as a sign that Apple was parting ways with green principles.
The ensuing backlash was huge and, although green groups such as Greenpeace added to the frenzy, was markedly consumer-driven.
After just three days, the company was forced into an embarrassing u-turn, citing the disappointment of “many loyal Apple customers” as critical to correcting their “mistake” and getting back on to the register.
If brands take one moral from the story for next year it should be that consumers do care about sustainability, and they are more than prepared to say so directly.