As the internationally promoted Earth Hour gets under way tonight, the electronics industry is feeling the heat from green campaigners to address the environmental impact of its operations and products and to take a stronger stand on reducing its carbon footprint. A new list released by environmental campaign group Greenpeace places the spotlight on electronics companies by ranking them in accordance with each company’s policies and practices on chemicals and electronic-waste (e-waste).
While Asian giants Samsung and Toshiba claimed the top spot in the Greenpeace Guide to Greener Electronics, American corporation Microsoft and Dutch electronics company Philips both came in at the bottom of the list.
“Samsung’s consistency in their practices and policies kept the company score stable, while Toshiba climbed from the sixth spot to improve its score. Philips, Panasonic and Sharp continue to ignore their responsibility for e-waste arising from their products,” said a Greenpeace release.
The aim of the guide, it said, is to clean up the electronics sector and get manufacturers to take responsibility for the full life cycle of their products, including the e-waste that their products generate.
The electronics industry, however, has risen to the challenges on toxic chemicals and e-waste set by Greenpeace ever since the first guide was launched in August 2006, according to a spokesperson.
“It is now time to raise the bar and challenge the industry to take a holistic approach to its practices and operations, companies have to take responsibility for the entire lifecycle of their products – from production, through manufacture and to the very end of their products’ lives,” said Iza Kruszewska, Greenpeace International Toxics Campaigner.
Meanwhile, Earth Hour, which will be observed tonight from 8pm, is a campaign that urges people around the world to switch off all non-essential electrical appliances for an hour.
The criteria for ranking the electronics makers included chemicals policy, chemicals management, banned and restricted substance lists, policy to identify problematic substances for future elimination or substitution, timeline for phasing out all use of vinyl plastic (PVC) and brominated flame retardants (BFRs) and presence of toxic-free models of electronic products on the market.
Greenpeace Iza Kruszewska added: “The challenge is clear, to be truly green, the IT industry needs to commit to designing products that are free of toxic chemicals, are energy efficient, durable and recyclable while taking responsibility for them globally, including when they become waste.”
Here’s a list of some of the top names in the electronics business and how they score, according to the Greenpeace list:
Headquarters: Kyoto, Japan
Number of employees: 3500
Net income: $1.7bn (2007)
Notes: The gaming experts score zero for most of the criteria.
Headquarters: Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Number of employees: 123,800
Net income: $6.4bn (2007)
Notes: This Dutch company is a member of the Electronic Manufacturers’ Coalition for Responsible Recycling, which demands that consumers pay ARFs (Advanced Recycling Fees) and has a long way to go.
Headquarters: Osaka, Japan
Number of employees: 334,402
Net income: $1.84bn (2007)
Notes: Panasonic has committed to eliminating all uses of PVC– starting with internal wiring - and has set a time line of 2011. Panasonic scores poorly on its take-back programmes.
Headquarters: Washington DC, United States
Number of employees: 78,565
Net income: $14bn (2007)
Notes: The American software giant scores full marks on its chemicals management but fails to provide voluntary take-back for its end-of-life products.
Headquarters: Illinois, United States
Number of employees: 66,000
Net income: $48m (2007)
Notes: Motorola has committed to restrict, but not necessarily phase out PVC plastic from its mobile products by June 2008. It now provides voluntary take-back and recycling services in 57 countries, accounting for more than 90 per cent of global mobile phone sales. Although the company offers customers an increasing number of models of mobile phones free from BFRs, its portfolio includes home network equipment such as set-top boxes, wireless routers as well as walkie-talkies.
Sony Ericsson… 67%
Headquarters: London, United Kingdom
Number of employees: 7,500
Net income: $1.7bn (2007)
Notes: Sony Ericsson states strong support for the Precautionary Principle and has set January 1, 2008 for eliminating BFRs in two remaining applications. All new models of mobiles put on the market since 2006 have been PVC-free.
LG Electronics… 67%
Headquarters: Seoul, South Korea
Number of employees: 82,772
Net income: $230m (2006)
Notes: While it has scored well for its policy on Individual Producer Responsibility, whereby each company takes care of the e-waste from its own-branded discarded products, it needs to provide more take-back services for products other than mobile phones.
Headquarters: California, United States
Number of employees: 17,787
Net income: $3.4bn (2007)
Notes: The guys from Cupertino are moving up the green ladder fast with all new models of their MacBooks and iPods featuring internal cables free from toxic PVC plastics and BFRs. It has committed to eliminate PVC and BFRs in its products by the end of 2008.
Headquarters: Espoo, Finland
Number of employees: 112,262
Net income: $7.2bn (2007)
Notes: Nokia has scored well by eliminating PVC plastic from all new models but has been rebuked for its ambiguous take-back services.
Headquarters: Tokyo, Japan
Number of employees: 190,708
Net income: $1.1bn (2007)
Notes: Toshiba scores top marks for committing to totally eradicate specified chemical substances, regardless of lack of full scientific certainty. The Japanese company, which recently lost the high-definition DVD player war to Sony, also has a Green Procurement Guideline where it ranks its suppliers. It has also set 2009 as a time line for phasing out polyvinyl chloride (PVC) – considered environmentally damaging – from all of its products.
Headquarters: Seoul, South Korea
Number of employees: 222,000
Net income: $12.9bn (2006)
Notes: The Korean giant has been hailed for providing a time line for phasing out PVC from all its products by 2010. Since November 2007, all new LCD panels in production have been PVC-free.
Where did your favourite brand come in the green stakes?