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Samsung and Toshiba new leaders in greener electronics ranking

Feature story - 18 March, 2008
In the latest edition of our quarterly Guide to Greener Electronics Samsung and Toshiba share top spot. Nokia misses out on top spot due to a penalty point for inconsistent global takeback. Nintendo remains rooted to the bottom with only a tiny improvement but Microsoft and Philips both improve their scores.

Electronic waste being sorted by unprotected workers in Guangdong, China.

The Greener Electronics Guide is our way of getting the electronics industry to face up to the problem of e-waste. We want manufacturers to get rid of harmful chemicals in their products. We want to see an end to the stories of unprotected child labourers scavenging mountains of cast-off gadgets created by society's gizmo-loving ways.

The Guide ranks top market leaders of the mobile phone, computer, TV and games console markets according to their policies and practices on toxic chemicals and takeback. Samsung and Toshiba share top spot with 7.7/10 closely followed by Nokia, Sony, Dell and Lenovo all on 7.3. Apple continues it's steady rise due to new products like the MacBook Air with less toxic chemicals helping boost Apple to 6.7.

Since the Guide was first published in August 2006, many electronics companies have vastly improved their environmental policies and practice. The leadership position has changed four times and the average score has risen significantly as the companies compete to outdo each other.

Nintendo stuck on start

Nintendo has made some tiny changes to score 0.3, since being the first company to score 0 when added last November. Nintendo remains the odd one out with no public policy on toxics elimination or recycling, unlike the other 17 companies in the guide. We have requested information from Nintendo head offices several times and sent it the ranking in advance but have received no response. More on Nintendo's score.

Among Nintendo's competitors Microsoft improved it's score to 4.7, mainly by bring forwards it's deadline to 2010 for eliminating toxic PVC and BFR's. Sony remains the leading console maker on 7.3, but it has yet to introduce any green innovation in the Playstation.

We have been testing the claims of several companies recycling policies. In the last edition of the guide Nokia and Motorola were given a penalty point because of poor or non-existant service in several countries. Motorola's recycling service has subsequently improved so its penalty point has been lifted. Our testers still encountered problems with Nokia's recycling in India and Russia, so the penalty point remains in place, keeping Nokia off the top spot.

Rising to the challenge

With 14 of the 18 companies in the guide now scoring over 5/10 and six companies scoring 7.3 or more we will be raising the bar in the next version of the guide. To encourage the electronics industry to take a more holistic approach to its' practices and operations, and ensure companies have to take responsibility for the entire lifecycle of their products we have published new criteria for the next edition.

The chemicals and e-waste criteria are more stringent, and we have added new energy criteria. The global Information and Communication Technology industry is estimated to be responsible for approximately 2 percent of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, a figure equivalent to aviation.

The rapid proliferation of energy hungry gadgets is part of this emissions rise so it's vital that all companies play a leading role in producing more energy efficient products.

We will be scoring the companies on 5 energy criteria, including the efficiency of their products, how much renewable energy they use and if they are committed to significantly reduce emissions. The new criteria are now available and discussed in more detail on our weblog.

Green IT has been a big buzzword in the electronics industry recently. The next version of the Guide (due out in June 08) will help reveal which companies are truly green - those that are designing products free of toxic chemicals, energy efficient, durable and recyclable.

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