Manila, 10 July 2007–Electronic companies are clearly rising to the challenge of ‘greening’ their products, Greenpeace said today during the launch in Quezon City of the latest ‘Guide to Greener Electronics,’ a public ranking system of the environmental practices of electronic manufacturers. But, while this may bode well in the long run for developing countries such as the Philippines which typically end up as dump yards of toxic electronic waste (e-waste), a total ‘greening’ of the industry is still needed if the industry is to be toxic-free.
“We are clearly witnessing steps toward a cleaner electronics industry,” said Greenpeace Southeast Asia Toxics Campaigner Beau Baconguis. “Leading computer manufacturers are now going public with their environmental policies, and this transparency is putting the whole sector under the spotlight, pressuring other companies in turn to likewise go public as well as improve their existing environmental practices.”
The ranking system, developed by Greenpeace in August 2006, rates leading mobile and computer companies according to their global policies and practices on eliminating harmful chemicals and on taking responsibility for their products once they are discarded by consumers. The newest ranking, the 4th version, shows that 12 of the 14 electronic giants assessed since last year have now scored five or above out of a total ten points, signifying an industry-wide improvement in environmental policies. The companies have been evaluated every quarter since the release of the first Guide where all but three companies (Sony-Ericsson, Nokia and Dell) ranked below five points.
Among the most notable improvements this quarter is the ranking of Apple, which has moved four places from the bottom spot it has occupied since December 2006(1). Nokia, which has led the ratings until it dropped one spot last March 2007, regained the lead this July. Dell and Lenovo are now tied at second place, followed by Sony-Ericsson and Samsung. At present, Sony is the biggest loser in the race, languishing at the bottom of the ranking along with LG, both penalized for ‘double standards’ on their waste policies(2).
Since the start of the public rankings, more and more companies are also now providing information on whether their products are free of the most harmful chemicals used by the industry. For example, as of March 2007, Panasonic had many examples of 100% PVC-free products on the market, including DVD players and recorders, home cinemas and video players. The company now provides a list of products that are PVC-free(3). Meanwhile, Nokia, Sony Ericsson, and to some extent, Motorola are introducing increasing numbers of models that are also free from PVC and brominated flame retardants.
The Greenpeace Guide also demonstrates that companies are starting to act on their responsibility not only to produce products that do not contain toxic components but also to take back and recycle their products at the end of their useful lives. Companies are now providing more and more extensive voluntary programmes and information to customers on what to do with discarded electronics. Leading computer manufacturers are now going public with their recycling percentages(4).
“The world has benefitted immensely from rapid developments in the electronics industry but the corresponding hazardous e-waste it has generated has negative environmental and health consequences, particularly when they end up in dump yards of poorer countries,” said Baconguis. “But, while the marked improvement in the environmental policies of these leading consumer electronic companies is heartening, many of them are still a long way off from the perfect score. As it is, the challenge for companies to eliminate all hazardous substances from their products, and to institute effective takeback and recycling policies, still remain.”
Greenpeace is an independent, campaigning organization which uses non-violent, creative confrontation to expose global environment problems, and to force the solutions which are essential to a green and peaceful future.
‘Guide to Greener Electronics’ may be downloaded at:
(2) Sony and LG Electronics have been penalised for practising double standards on their regional and national policies for recycling their own-branded products. While both companies support Individual Producer Responsibility elsewhere in the world, in the United States they are part of a coalition opposing producer responsibility laws and calling for consumers, instead of producers, to pay for the recycling of e-waste. Electronic Manufacturers・Coalition for Responsible Recycling at: www.productstewardship.net/PDFs/libraryElectronicsARFCoalitionWhitePaper03-2005.pdf
(3) See http://www.panasonic.net/eco/gp/chemical.html for more information.
(4) Dell reports a recycling rate of 12% of its past sale; while HP reports 10%; Apple 9.5%, and Motorola 3.32%., while Lenovo’s rate is based on weight on weight of shipment and its figures vary depending on the year of sales data from 0.72% for 2006 and 8.8% for 1998.