Apple’s Right-To-Repair Policy Was Forced By Green Investors and Regulatory Pressure

"In the past, Apple has taken an opposing stance on letting consumers repair their devices. Some of that is changing with Apple's new announcement," writes Slashdot reader wakeboarder. "Apple will sell components like batteries and screens to allow consumers to repair their own devices. This will help reduce e-waste, but will also allow Apple to control the market for parts -- not exactly what right-to-repair activists have fought for." With that said, Apple "didn't change its policy out of the goodness of its heart," writes The Verge's Maddie Stone. The timing of this announcement was "deliberate," considering Wednesday was a key deadline in the fight over a shareholder resolution environmental advocates filed with the company in September asking Apple to re-evaluate its stance on independent repair. The issue would've likely ended up at the Securities and Exchange Commission. From the report: Apple spokesperson Nick Leahy told The Verge that the program "has been in development for well over a year," describing it as "the next step in increasing customer access to Apple genuine parts, tools, and manuals." Leahy declined to say whether the timing of the announcement was influenced by shareholder pressure. Activist shareholders believe that it was. "The timing is definitely no coincidence," says Annalisa Tarizzo, an advocate with Green Century, the mutual fund company that filed the right-to-repair resolution with Apple in September. As a result of today's announcement, Green Century is withdrawing its resolution, which asked Apple to "reverse its anti repair practices" and evaluate the benefits of making parts and tools more available to consumers. Apple's initial response to the Green Century resolution was less than conciliatory. Tarizzo says that on October 18 (30 days before the self service announcement), Apple submitted a "no action request" to the Securities and Exchange Commission asking the investor oversight body to block the proposal. According to Tarizzo, Apple's argument before the SEC was that the proposal -- that the company "prepare a report" on the environmental and social benefits of making its devices easier to fix -- ran afoul of shareholder proposal guidance by infringing on Apple's normal business operations. However, earlier this month, the SEC issued new guidance concerning no-action requests that includes a carve-out for proposals that raise "significant social policy issues." In other words, shareholders can bring resolutions that affect a company's day-to-day business operations if those proposals raise issues with significant societal impact. Tarizzo believes that this change made it much more likely the SEC would side with Green Century rather than Apple, particularly since the mutual fund company connected the dots between increased access to repair and the fight against climate change. (Using devices as long as possible through maintenance and repair is one of the best ways to reduce the climate impact of consumer technology since the majority of the emissions associated with our gadgets occur during the manufacturing stage.) "It wasn't a guarantee that the SEC would side with us, but the new guidance indicates it's very likely we would prevail," Tarizzo says. "It effectively took away a lot of Apple's leverage in the process." Now, Apple seems to have regained some leverage by announcing its new Self Service Repair program on the same day that Green Century was required to respond to the no-action request. Instead of arguing that the SEC should allow the shareholder resolution to move forward, Green Century is now withdrawing the resolution entirely.

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