San Francisco plans to suspend purchases of Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) computers after the company stopped participating in an environmental certification program used by governments and universities to make purchasing decisions.

San Francisco’s 50 departments and 28,000 employees will no longer be able to use city funds to buy Apple desktops, laptops or monitors because the Cupertino, California-based company dropped out of the rating system called EPEAT, created to track the environmental impact of computers, Jon Walton, the city’s chief information officer, said yesterday in an interview. The city’s policy doesn’t apply to iPhones and iPads, he said.

Apple’s plan to drop participation in the program may have broad consequences because many governments and universities rely on the EPEAT registry when making purchasing decisions. The University of California, the largest U.S. public higher- education system, is considering whether to suspend Apple computer purchases because of the change, said Bill Allison, head of campus technology services at the Berkeley campus.

“When something like this happens, it’s a significant change in the landscape,” Allison said. The school needs two weeks to work with Apple and administrators in the university system to consider how to move forward, he said. “We’re reviewing the impact of this.”

San Francisco’s decision was first reported by the Wall Street Journal’s CIO Journal. The story said the federal government requires that 95 percent of its laptops and desktops be certified by EPEAT.

The U.S. General Services Administration “recommends EPEAT, but at this time GSA doesn’t require EPEAT for all contracts,” said Dan Cruz, a spokesman for the agency, in an e- mailed statement.

‘Comprehensive Approach’

Apple defended its decision to drop out of EPEAT, a standard for monitoring the environmental impact of electronics products that the company helped create several years ago. The company said it meets strict environmental standards, including the government’s Energy Star program.

“Apple takes a comprehensive approach to measuring our environmental impact, and all of our products meet the strictest energy-efficiency standards backed by the U.S. government,” said Kristin Huguet, a spokeswoman for Apple. “We also lead the industry by reporting each product’s greenhouse gas emissions on our website, and Apple products are superior in other important environmental areas not measured by EPEAT, such as removal of toxic materials.”

EPEAT was started in 2006 by technology companies, U.S. government agencies and outside groups to be a rating system for buyers of electronics to determine the environmental impact of products. Dell Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Samsung Electronics Co. are among the manufacturers that participate, according to the group’s website.

Environmental Impact

“We regret that Apple will no longer be registering its products in EPEAT,” the group said on its website. “We hope that they will decide to do so again at some point in future.”

According to EPEAT’s website, the registry is used to make purchasing decisions at the states of California and Massachusetts, Ford Motor Co. and Yale University.

In San Francisco, Apple’s products make up about $45,000 of the city’s total $200 million information technology budget, Walton said.
“I’m just hopeful that we can have a dialog with Apple so we can continue to work with them,” he said.

Allison, of the University of California, said the EPEAT standard makes purchasing decisions easier because the school doesn’t have the budget or time to review each product on a case-by-case basis.

Standards Update

Apple’s move may lead to an updating of the environmental standard, which is several years old, Allison said. EPEAT may have become less effective as manufacturing standards have changed to accommodate the thinner devices customers find popular, he said.

“It may be that we need to help push vendors who like to act unilaterally when they can to work together to evolve the current standard,” Allison said.