Apple Advances in Greenpeace Charts

Once per quarter, international environmental advocacy agency Greenpeace releases its Guide to Greener Electronics, which ranks gadget and computer makers on their efforts to be more ecologically minded. Last time around, Apple (s aapl) had managed only a ninth place finish in October of last year. For this inaugural 2010 survey, it jumps four spots to fifth overall.

Apple’s score didn’t increase that much, going from 4.9 to 5.1, but some of its competitors did very poorly over the period covered by the rankings, according to Greenpeace’s analysis. What Apple did manage to do was to actually act in a way that was much more environmentally friendly than previous attempts, despite actually moving backwards in its attempts to educate the public about its ecological efforts.

According to Greenpeace’s detailed evaluation, the redesign of the environmental information portion of Apple’s website actually provides less information than before, which counts against it according to the rating criteria the organization has established:

Apple loses a point for providing even less information (on its updated web-pages) about its supply chain communications than before. This criterion evaluates disclosure of information flow in the supply chain. Apple also loses a point for minimal information about its future toxic chemical phase-out plans, reducing its communication on this subject on its updated web-pages.

In terms of practical steps taken to lessen the impact of its actual products on the environment, though, Apple did very well:

Apple does best on the toxic chemicals criteria, where it scores most of its points. It scores substantially less on waste and energy. In this evaluation, Apple wins and loses some points on toxic chemicals, but gains on energy. All Apple products are now free of PVC and BFRs, with the exception of PVC-free power cords in countries where their safety certification process is still ongoing.

The four companies ahead of Apple on the ratings scale are Nokia (s nok), Sony Ericsson, Toshiba and Philips (s phg). That means that Apple is second among computer makers overall. Nintendo, Microsoft (s msft) and Lenovo occupy the three bottom spots on the chart, with Microsoft slipping this year for a failure to support strong chemicals legislation. Apple is the only company to have earned four stars in Greenpeace’s new supplemental ratings chart regarding the elimination of harmful chemicals.

Every time these rankings are released, people tend to take issue with Greenpeace’s methods and motivations, and generally naysay the value of the guide. It may be true that Greenpeace has a very clear political aim, but I really don’t think provoking some sense of accountability in consumer-facing electronics companies is really a bad thing, even if you disagree with the methodology involved.