Green points for Hewlett Packard and Apple

HP's penalty point lifted in latest Guide to Greener Electronics

Feature story - October 2, 2009
Apple and Hewlett Packard get green points this month, as HP is rewarded in the latest edition of our Guide to Greener Electronics and Apple releases details of their greenhouse gas emissions. But the big points go to activist consumers for proving once again that public pressure creates positive change.

A boy winces at the acrid smoke rising from the computer motherboards being melted over open fires in a electronics waste (e-waste) recycling yard in Delhi. Such open air burning of electronics parts to recover metals causes large exposure of workers and the environment to toxic pollution.

The Greenpeace International Guide to Greener Electronics ranks the 18 top manufacturers of personal computers, mobile phones, TVs and games consoles according to their policies and practice on toxic chemicals, recycling and climate change.

The guide is published quarterly. We went to press before Apple's updated environmental information was published last week, but the welcome news of their transparency about greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental disclosures will be factored in to the next edition. Apple can justly pat itself on the back for listening to their customers who asked for greener gadgets. And all you Apple users should pat yourselves on the back for asking.

Hewlett-Packard had their penalty point lifted by putting a personal computer on the market that is virtually free of PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride, or vinyl plastic) and brominated flame retardants (BFRs). Only the power supply unit and cable still contain these hazardous substances.

HP back on track

HP made a commitment in 2007 to have all PC products toxic-free in 2009, but went soft on that commitment earlier this year.

So we painted a protest on Hewlett-Packard's roof saying that HP stood for "Hazardous Products," and organized a phone-in protest with the voice talents of William Shatner. With the new HP ProBook 5310m notebook, HP has made the first step in catching up with Apple, which eliminated these materials from its entire product line almost a year ago, and now puts pressure squarely on HP's competitors to put more products on the market that are cleaner and safer.

Apple are still ahead on toxics removal, having eliminated these materials from its entire product line almost a year ago, partly as a result of our "Green my Apple" campaign which brought consumer pressure to bear from people who loved their Macs, but really wished they came in green.

Slow learners: Dell and Lenovo

Dell and Lenovo each retain a penalty point for delaying their phase-out commitments indefinitely. Acer claims that it will still achieve its target for eliminating PVC and BFRs in all products by the end of this year. Meanwhile Toshiba has a timeline to phase out these toxic substances from all its products by the end of March 2010.

Top of the class: Nokia, Samsung, Sony Ericsson and Philips

Nokia remains at the top of the ranking, with a score of 7.5 out of 10, followed by Samsung with 6.9, Sony Ericsson with 6.5 and Philips -- which leaps from 7th to 4th place -- with 5.9 points. The other climber is Sony, rising from 12th to 8th place.

Slow-footed: LGE, Fujitsu and Lenovo

LGE plummets from 4th to 11th position, weighed down by a penalty point for flip-flopping on its promise to get off the toxic sauce by the end of 2010 - now, only its mobile phones will be free of these PVC and BFRs by then, while phase-out in TVs and monitors has been delayed until 2012. At the bottom of the ranking, Fujitsu, with a score of 2.7, overtakes Lenovo, which drops from 16th to second-last place with a score of 2.5.

The world needs climate leaders

This edition of the guide -- which also ranks companies on climate and energy criteria -- is released just two months before crucial climate change talks take place in Copenhagen.

We expect these powerful tech companies to stand by their claims and set examples of strong leadership for other industries to follow. It's encouraging that Philips, Acer and Samsung support the levels of greenhouse emissions cuts required to stem dangerous climate change. However industry giants like Apple, Nokia and Microsoft are failing to show climate leadership by making a stand.

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