Chinese company tops Greenpeace "Green Ranking" of electronics industry

Apple still bottom of the barrel

Feature Story - 2007-04-03
The latest Greenpeace ranking of electronic manufacturers' recycling and toxic content policies has a couple of surprises: a previously low ranked Chinese company leaps to the number one spot, and Apple stays in last place.

As much as 4,000 tonnes of toxic e-waste are discarded every hour.

We love to see electronic products manufacturers competing for who can outgreen whom.

In one of the best outcomes of our quarterly "Green Ranking" we've seen Michael Dell challenge the entire industry to adopt a worldwide takeback policy (something we put on our wish list to Dell when the campaign first started), watched some companies meet and then exceed our demands, and enjoyed getting phone calls from other manufacturers asking when, precisely, new policies needed to be adopted in order to be reflected in the next ranking.

Sony Ericsson not only took up our demand to eliminate (take a deep breath and say this fast) brominated fire retardants and polyvinyl chloride – they're eliminating beryllium and phthalates too. And Chinese manufacturer Lenovo has jumped from last place to the middle of the pack to top dog in six months: all they need to do for a perfect 10 is to get a green product on the market.

Competitive pressure, ongoing dialogue with Greenpeace campaigners, and consumer expectations have driven an improvement in companies' scores since the December 2006 edition of the Guide, with nine out of 14 companies now scoring more than five points out of 10.

© Greenpeace / Natalie Behring

In our newest ranking, Chinese PC maker Lenovo displaces Nokia from the lead position it enjoyed since the Guide was launched. Sony and LG Electronics receive penalty points for operating double standards on their e-waste takeback policies across the world, while Apple, having made no progress since the launch of the Guide in August 2006, continues to languish in last place, far behind all other major manufacturers. (Are you a surprised and disappointed Apple user? We are too. All of us who love Apple are giving them a push by writing to Steve Jobs, giving our Macs a hug,  and participating in other ways in the Green my Apple campaign.)

"Given the growing mountains of e-waste in China – both imported and domestically generated – it is heartening to see a Chinese company taking the lead, and assuming responsibility at least for its own branded waste," said Iza Kruszewska, our International Toxics Campaigner. "The challenge for the industry now is to see who will actually place greener products on the market."

© Greenpeace / Natalie Behring

Lenovo, which bought IBM's consumer electronics division in 2005, scores top marks on its e-waste policies and practice; the company offers takeback and recycling in all the countries where its products are sold. Lenovo also reports the amount of e-waste it recycles as a percentage of its sales. However, the company has yet to put on the market products that are free of the worst chemicals.

Other companies in the top five include Nokia (2nd), Sony Ericsson (3rd) Dell (4th) and Samsung (5th).

Sony Ericsson has moved back up the guide (they were 5th in December 2006) and is the first company to set a timeline of 1st January 2008 for eliminating substances in addition to those banned by the European RoHS Directive (Restriction of Hazardous Substances in electronic products), including phthalates, beryllium and some uses of antimony compounds.

Sony and LG Electronics have been penalised for practicing 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.

© Greenpeace / Natalie Behring

"We expect companies to have consistent global policies and treat all their customers equally. With this edition of the Guide, we're seeing some companies move beyond good statements of principle and towards real action, with the roll-out of voluntary take-back programs and detailed information being provided to customers. But companies have to stay on the ball and progress in step with the market. Existing commitments from companies begin to look less impressive on this dynamic score card as their competitors raise the bar!" concluded Kruszewska.

See the ranking and full report.

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