Electronics companies race to be greener

Feature Story - 2006-12-06
Acer and Lenovo are the latest of the top computer makers to commit to stop using the worst toxic chemicals in their products. Along with Motorola these companies are the biggest movers in the latest version of our Guide to Greener Electronics. Disappointingly for Mac fans, Apple has dropped to last place.

Boy recycling electronic waste by hand in India. Companies with good scores in the ranking are part of the solution to the growing e-waste problem.

We first released our  'Guide to Greener Electronics' in August 2006. The guide ranks the 14 top manufacturers of personal computers and mobile phones according to their policies on toxic chemicals and recycling.

The public ranking has been successful in spurring many companies to improve, and the second edition, released today, shows good overall industry progress and some major individual improvements in rank.

"We are witnessing a global shift towards greener PCs, with Acer and Lenovo, two major producers, committing to eliminate the use of the most hazardous chemicals from their products range," said Iza Kruszewska, Greenpeace International toxics campaigner, "Most companies now score above average points on the ranking guide, with only five companies failing to score even the average of five points."

The ranking is important because the amounts of toxic e-waste is growing every day. It often ends up dumped in the developing world. Reducing the toxic chemicals in products reduces pollution from old products and makes recycling safer, easier and cheaper. Companies with good recycling schemes help ensure that their products don't end up in the e-waste yards of Africa and Asia.

Green Movers

Nokia continues to hold the top spot in the ranking, with progressive policies on both its chemicals policy as well as disposal of electronic waste. However, the company is yet to outline clear timelines for phasing out the toxic plastic PVC (vinyl) in all its products.

Motorola has been the fastest mover in the ranking guide. From second worst in the first version of the guide, it has made strong commitments to moved up to fourth place. Lenovo has also made strong policy commitments, to jump from the bottom to 8th place. Fujitsu-Siemens and Acer made substantial progress and are now ranked 3rd and 7th respectively, moving up from their earlier 10th and 12th positions.

Must do better

Apple has made no improvements in its policies and is now bottom of the ranking. While its arch rivals make progress, the world leader in innovation and design is falling further and further behind.

We'd expect an innovative company which takes pride in 'thinking different' to be top of the ranking - which was why we launched the Green my Apple campaign which has mobilized Mac fans worldwide to tell Apple how much they love their products: and how badly they want them to be environmentally sound.

LGE, Samsug and Sony have lost points for failing to act on their commitments to take responsibility for their waste; instead, the companies are supporting regulation in the US that would place the responsibility for product recycling on consumers instead of producers.

In September 2006, HP had one point deducted from its overall score when analysis of an HP laptop revealed the presence of a type of toxic chemical that HP claimed it no longer used. HP was quick to respond and investigate. They went public with an explanation on their website, and the penalty point was removed.

By turning the public spotlight on top electronics companies and challenging them to outrank their competition, the guide has succeeded in motivating many companies to improve their policies on chemicals and waste.

But ultimately, companies only respond to issues that matter to their customers.  If you're a Mac or iPod user, join the growing ranks of Apple users telling Steve Jobs that the back of the pack is just no place for Apple.

Here's a few of the ways they are asking:

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