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Greenest Notebooks - or Just Boldest Ads?

The recent Dell vs. Apple smackdown begs the question: Is it ever a good idea to call out another company on its environmental claims?

In a recent blog post, Bob Pearson, Dell’s VP of community outreach, panned Apple over a well-publicized - and ostensibly controversial - ad campaign, "The Greenest Family of Notebooks." As one of Dell’s biggest competitors, it comes as no surprise that Dell would have some not-so-friendly things to say about Apple’s bold effort.

Among Pearson’s scathing accusations, he claims that Apple's self-proclaimed "world's greenest laptops" are more smoke-and-mirror rhetoric than substantiation, and that Dell's laptops demonstrate a greater commitment to the environment than Apple's. The main concern addressed in the post is the accusation that Apple is not involved in the ongoing debate, citing that "Apple employees are not allowed to blog," which, while at least partly accurate, is not very relevant. Finally, he mentions Dell's recycling program, their carbon-neutral construction, and reduction of packaging, and questions whether Apple has achieved any of these goals.

Pearson’s blog post elicited quite a few responses, ranging from outright support for Apple including who’s calling the kettle black type claims to strong agreement with Pearson.

Fact is, neither company can be consider green or even greener than the other. Both rate fairly low in Greenpeace’s ratings, and well behind such competitors as Nokia, Samsung and Fujitsu.

According to Green Inc., the NYTimes blog, despite its achievements for using recyclable aluminum, removing PVC and brominated flame retardants from the computer, Apple still does not have a completely “green” computer, as their claim, “the greenest family of computers,” might suggest.

Pearson might be better off bringing a quiet case to the NAD – the National Advertising Division of the Better Business Bureau, which reviews the truthfulness and accuracy of advertising claims, than loudly griping in public on a record, which according to Greenpeace is itself less than perfect and declining of late, and whose own carbon neutral claims have been questioned.

Jacquie Ottman is a pioneer in green marketing, who's been advising Fortune 500 companies and U.S. government ecolabeling programs (Energy Star and USDA Certified Biobased, among others) since 1989.

She's the author of 5 books on green marketing and… [Read more about Jacquelyn Ottman]

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