The Clean Machine

Greenpeace Gives Grades to Electronics Manufacturers
by: Jerry Liao

Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the cleanest of them all? This seems to be the question Greenpeace was asking when it conducted a study who among the top electonic manufacturers ranks the best in as far as on their global policies and practice on eliminating harmful chemicals and on taking responsibility for their products once they are discarded by consumers – 14 companies were included in the ranking. But before we give you results, let me tell you first the criteria used:

Chemicals policy and practice (5 criteria)
1. A chemicals policy based on the Precautionary Principle
2. Chemicals Management: supply chain management of chemicals via e.g. banned/restricted substance lists, policy to identify problematic substances for future elimination/substitution
3. Timeline for phasing out all use of vinyl plastic (PVC)
4. Timeline for phasing out all use of brominated flame retardants (not just those banned by EU’s RoHS Directive)
5. PVC- and BFR-free models of electronic products on the market.

Policy and practice on Producer Responsibility for taking back their discarded products and recycling (4 criteria)
1. Support for individual (financial) producer responsibility – that producers finance the end-of-life management of their products, by taking back and reusing/recycling their own-brand discarded products.
2. Provides voluntary takeback and recycling in every country where it sells its products, even in the absence of national laws requiring Producer Responsibility for electronic waste.
3. Provides clear information for individual customers on takeback and recycling services in all countries where there are sales of its products.
4. Reports on amount of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) collected and recycled.

The points awarded to corporate practice on chemicals (five criteria, double points for PVC – and BFR-free models) are weighted more heavily than criteria on recycling, because until the use of harmful substances is eliminated in products, it is impossible to secure ‘safe’, toxic-free recycling. Where two companies score the same number of total points, the company with the higher score on the chemicals criteria will be ranked higher.

And now the result (10-Highest; 0-Lowest):

1. Lenovo (8pts) – The most improved: from last place to first. Progress on all criteria but loses points for not having products free of the worst chemicals on the market yet.
2. Nokia (7.3pts) – Good on all criteria, but needs clear timeline for PVC phase out for all applications. Needs to better report on how many discarded mobiles it recycles.
3. Sony Ericsson (7.0pts) – The first to set 2008 as its deadline to put on the market products free of the worst chemicals. Some products are already greener, but needs better takeback reporting.
4. Dell (7pts) – Still among the top but loses points for not having models free of the worst chemicals. Strong support for takeback.
5. Samsung (6.3pts) – Moving up the rank and gaining points for takeback policies. But its take back system is not yet global and needs improvement.
6. Motorola (6.3pts) – Loses points for not providing clear timelines for phase out of worst chemicals.
7. Fujitsu-Siemens (6pts) – Some models free of the worst chemicals, but should improve takeback and recycling.
8. HP (5.6pts) – Needs to do better on the chemicals criteria especially phase out timelines and greener products. It loses points for weak definition of takeback policies.
9. Acer (5.3pts) – Improved chemical policies but no models free of the worst chemicals. Needs to improve on takeback.
10. Toshiba (4.3pts) – Some models without the worst chemicals and has gained points by providing timelines for chemical phase out. But loses points for poor waste and take back criteria.
11. Sony (4.0pts) – Some models without the worst chemicals, but loses a penalty point for inconsistent takeback policies.
12. LGE (3.6pts) – In free-fall: it loses a penalty point for inconsistent takeback policies. But scores points for providing a mobile free of the worst chemicals.
13. Panasonic (3.6pts) – Slipping down for failing to keep up with the movement of all the other companies. No commitment to eliminate the worst chemicals, and poor on takeback.
14. Apple (2.7pts) – Holding firmly in last place: low scores on almost all criteria and no progress.

Apple contends that it has made some important environmental decisions in the past few years. In addition to the computer take-back program started last year, Apple was one of the first companies to eliminate CRT monitors from its product lines. According to the company, using flat-panel displays eliminate more than two pounds of lead, consume up to 80 percent less energy in sleep mode and weigh half as much as their CRT counterparts.

Apple is keen to point out its reservations concerning Greenpeace’s evaluation system, offering in a statement that: “We disagree with Greenpeace’s rating and the criteria,” surrounding the chart run down, while it also claimed that, “Apple has a strong environmental track record and has led the industry in restricting and banning toxic substances such as mercury, cadmium and hexavalent chromium, as well as many brominated flame retardants.”

The guide does not rank companies on labour standards, energy use or any other issues, but recognises that these are important in the production and use of electronics products.

Greenpeace is a global campaigning organization that acts to change attitudes and behaviour, to protect and conserve the environment and to promote peace. Greenpeace is present in 40 countries across Europe, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific. To maintain its independence, Greenpeace does not accept donations from governments or corporations but relies on contributions from individual supporters and foundation grants. Greenpeace has been campaigning against environmental degradation since 1971.

Of course, the result has nothing to do with the quality of product being produced, but I must say that for a company to consider its environmental responsibilities do add to it’s corporate credibility, reputation and commitment to environmental safety and product excellence.



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