Dell VP takes Apple to task over environmental claims… sort of

Sat, Dec 20, 2008


In a recent blogpost, Dell VP Bob Pearson takes Apple to task over its environmental claims in its latest MacBook ad. The only problem is that Pearson’s take on things seem to go off in a number of different directions, and it’s not quite clear what he’s complaining about.

#1 – Be Part of the Conversation – It is important to listen, learn, ask more questions and be willing to admit it when you are wrong. We don’t recall Apple joining the conversation about the environment, either via key conferences or the blogosphere or via reporter meetings. In fact, we believe Apple employees are not allowed to blog, as far as we can tell…

I’m not sure what Pearson is longing for here. For Apple to attend environmental conferences? To admit that it’s wrong about something that Pearson won’t tell us? And I’m not quite sure what Apple’s blogging policy for its employees has to do with anything.

#2 – Stretch Goals are Different than Wild Claims – We have repeatedly said we want to be the greenest technology company on the planet. This is our aspiration. It really motivates us inside Dell to chase this goal. It’s very different than saying “we have the greenest laptops,” which Apple has said. Apple hasn’t stated any goals, just made claims, which as far as we can tell, are not accurate…

Ironically, this is where Pearson begins to stretch for points to make an argument. Apple doesn’t just claim that it has the greenest laptops. It explains why in its commercials, on its website, and even at big-time Apple events such as Macworld. And isn’t the goal pretty clear – to make environmentally friendly products?

#3 – Focus on Actions, Not Ads – we are highly focused on tangible actions, not rhetoric. It was in one of our regular sustainability meetings that Michael challenged us to offer free recycling worldwide for consumers. A big goal and we did it. We hope Apple does the same someday. We challenged ourselves in 2007 to meet a carbon-neutral goal for our operations in 2008 and we did it in August, about five months ahead of schedule. We hope Apple decides to do the same.

This is another misguided point. Apple doesn’t ignore actions and focus on ads. Rather, its ads are a reflection of the work Apple does to make its products more environmentally friendly.

In terms of environmentally friendly products, there are certain areas where Apple has Dell beat, and others where Dell has Apple beat.  Interestingly though, Pearson doesn’t seem to have a problem with the greeny-ness of Apple’s products, but apparently has an issue with the fact that Apple’s advertises its accomplishments in the first place. But maybe, just maybe, Dell and Pearson should spend more time focusing on ads of their own than directing their energies at what Apple’s up to.

Gizmodo has an apt piece of advice that’s worth quoting:

Dell and Apple are both making strides toward environmental responsibility, and we don’t want to discourage them from competing on that front, however childish the arguments might be. But Pearson’s post is full of the same kind of empty rhetoric of which he accuses Apple. My advice? Take the high road, Dell. Focus on what you do right, not what others do wrong.


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