A Greener Apple?

Earlier this year, Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) Steve Jobs posted a letter on the company's website outlining its environmental efforts. I don't find those actions rotten to the core, but I do believe that Apple can grow even greener by bringing its sustainability practices up to par with the corporate world's current best efforts. And if the company's doing more to protect the environment than it seems, it needs to convey these efforts to the public more clearly.

Apple does operate an admirable recycling program. Jobs' letter noted that in 2006, the company recycled 13 million pounds of "e-waste," including printers and monitors. That's roughly 9.5% of the weight of all the products Apple had sold seven years earlier. (Dell (Nasdaq: DELL  ) proposed, and Apple accepted, measuring recycling performance according to a seven-year product life cycle. The metric gauges "the percentage of the total weight" a company recycles each year compared to that sold seven years prior.)

Jobs' letter forecasts that this percentage will increase in 2007 to 13% of all products sold seven years earlier, climbing further to 20% in 2008, and reaching as much as 30% by 2010. In comparison, Jobs points out that Dell and Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) are "each around 10% per year." By 2010, he predicts that Apple "may be recycling significantly more than either Dell or HP." In short, Apple deserves kudos for its forward-thinking recycling efforts

However, as an avid Mac user, a Foolish investor, and a firm believer that companies must adopt long-term sustainable practices, I think Apple could be doing much more. I may be wrong about this, but I've got no way of knowing otherwise. The scant information Apple provides on its sustainability programs pales in comparison to the detail given by other corporate giants.

Among the companies I've studied, Unilever (NYSE: UN  ) (NYSE: UL  ) offers investors an excellent overview of its sustainable practices, with its "green" tea efforts just one of many highlights. General Electric's (NYSE: GE  ) nearly 100-page 2006 Citizenship Report, including information on its "ecomagination initiative," is also very impressive. Johnson & Johnson's (NYSE: JNJ  ) engagement of the AIDS epidemic, among other important global issues, also gets two thumbs up from me.

My Foolish colleague Georges Yared highlighted three reasons to buy Apple, noting that some money managers predict that the company's shares will top $200 in 2008. That's nothing to sneeze at, but as a long-term investor looking well past next year, I'd like to see another reason to buy Apple: a superior set of environmentally responsible business practices.

 More Foolishness on Apple:

Dell does double duty as a Stock Advisor and Inside Value pick. Unilever and Johnson & Johnson are Income Investor selections. Try any of our Foolish newsletters free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Jeremy MacNealy has no financial interest in any company mentioned. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy gives a hoot.

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