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Thursday, April 26, 2007, 09:00 pm PT (12:00 am ET)

Investors push Apple to meet or beat Dell enviro goals

An investment group plans to use Apple Inc.'s upcoming shareholder's meeting to press for greener products — and is holding the company's arch-rival Dell as the benchmark.

Trillium Asset Management roused Apple shareholders to action on Thursday, calling on them to support a motion that would require that the Cupertino-based company outline a schedule for ridding its hardware products of toxic materials.

The investment firm rekindled accusations that Apple has stalled on its commitments to environmental progress and urged that it scrap brominated flame retardants (BFCs) and polyvinyl chloride plastic (PVC), either of which can leak dangerous chemicals in the wrong circumstances.

Such substances can be especially volatile in developing nations, where attempts to cannibalize the better components of junked PCs frequently triggers their release into the environment. Continuing to use these materials without a "reasonable" timetable to eventually scrap them is both irresponsible and hypocritical, Trillian proclaimed.

"Consumers have grown to expect more from Apple, a leader in product design and innovation," Shelley Alpern, a VP at the firm, wrote in its call to investors. "Are we falling behind in the arena of greening our products?"

In what could be a considerable embarrassment for Apple, the shareholder coalition issued a definitive "yes" as its answer to the question of the Mac maker's sluggishness, and held up examples from rival companies. Current US market leader and ages-long nemesis Dell was treated as the gold standard for eco-friendly behavior: while Apple had not even published a schedule, Dell had already pledged to eliminate both BFRs and PVC plastic from its computers no later than 2009.

Indeed, prompting by AppleInsider has revealed that Trillium would like Apple to at least emulate its Texas opponent in any schedule that goes forward, if not exceed it.

"The timetable is a number one goal, and something on par with or hopefully better than Dell would be preferred," said a spokesperson for the firm. "But we'd also like to see [Apple] making a broader commitment to getting out of the use of persistent and bioaccumulative toxic chemicals."

Apple, in contrast, has been savaged for often promising a vague green strategy but failing to deliver on some of its most basic promises. In its plea to investors, Trillium highlighted several instances in which Apple had suffered public humiliation for its seeming inertia, including the notorious last-place Greenpeace ranking that has dogged the company for months.

Apple has even dragged its heels, the firm added, on environmental responsibility to the extent that multiple devices were banned from Europe due to continent-wide material safety laws.

In speaking to AppleInsider, a spokesperson for Trillium, which holds approximately $5.3 million in Apple shares, said the the group hadn't yet made contingency plans should voters shoot down its request for a cleanup schedule. The firm is instead devoting attention to the impending vote — a fact evident from its trailing jab at Apple's top brass.

"One of the interesting aspects of this issue is that enviro-celebrity Al Gore is on the Board of Directors of Apple," said the spokesperson.