Greenpeace response to Roughlydrafted

Page - November 16, 2006
Here is a response to the main points raised by Daniel Ertan of Roughlydrafted.com in his criticism of the Greenpeace Guide to Greener Electronics. Main points made in the article or comments relevant to the report made on the site are listed 1-11 in italics with Greenpeace response below.

1. RD: The report was based on just "half-assed googling". It only rates publicly available material so is "misleading".

Greenpeace:

The ranking is the outcome of dialogue and pressure on the companies to clean up their act along with considerable time spent on research, both online and offline. The reason much of the info is on company websites is due to our demand for transparency. Clearly, the next step is to hold the companies to these commitments and statements on their websites - to make sure they 'walk their talk'.

Companies who don't live up to their public commitments have been openly criticised by Greenpeace in the past, for example Motorola in May 2006.

Any company not meeting its public commitments in the future will be downgraded in the Greenpeace Guide to Greener Electronics ranking. Making policies public is good public relations but also makes the company accountable to the public. Companies who don't make their policies public ensure there is no way they can be held accountable to their policy. Moreover, if a company is found to be lying, operating double standards or otherwise misbehaving, it will receive penalty points. In September 2006, HP lost a penalty point moving down from 3rd to 6th place.

2. RD: Big companies dump more computers than small ones.

Greenpeace

This is why we want companies to report on the amount of WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) recycled based on sales in year X (average age of WEEE when trashed) as a percentage of sales, so that we can compare like with like. We also expect companies to increase these percentages.

If Apple is so confident about its recycling policy why does it not publish amounts recycled compared to amounts sold?

The reason that these companies were selected is that they are the top mobile and PC manufacturers (based on market share). It was not a random selection. We recognise that companies with smaller product portfolios (e.g. Nokia, Sony Ericsson) are less challenged to meet phase out targets than those with large product ranges (e.g. Samsung, LGE)

3. RD: The ranking does not mention laws to enforce standards.

Greenpeace

Our ranking scores on what companies do/commit to beyond legal compliance. We do not award points to companies for complying with legislation. So, the demand for eliminating ALL BFRs and PVC, goes beyond the requirements of the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive. Our goal is to change the whole industry and hence create a new higher industry standard.

4. RD: Apple has better global RoHS compliance than HP.

Greenpeace

We do not rank companies on global RoHS compliance - because we expect global RoHS compliance. It would be perverse to reward companies for NOT operating double standards!

Indeed some companies will sell non RoHS compliant products while stock remain outside of Europe if they intend to comply with RoHS globally. For the record Apple will continue to sell RoHS non-compliant products while stocks remain outside Europe:

5. RD: The percentage take back measurement is unfair because Apple is smaller than HP

The current standard of reporting in lbs or units is unclear because of different market shares and product portfolios. By reporting on volumes recycled (whether by weight or units) based on sales allows comparison of recycling efforts across companies. If Apple published a similar metric to HP it would allow an accurate comparison.

6. RD: Greenpeace does not have any expertise to produce the report.

Greenpeace has been working on toxics and waste issues since its inception. We have at least two decades of expertise working on these issues. We first started communicating with leading consumer electronics companies on their chemicals policies in 2002.

This is a Greenpeace ranking done independently of Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition (SVTC).

Iza Kruszewska, the report's author, has in the past worked with SVTC and other environmental NGO's. Since early 2004 she has been a fulltime Greenpeace campaigner.

Iza drafted the first Greenpeace briefing on the principle of extended producer responsibility as part of product policy, published in October 1995.

8. RD: Other companies pay/give incentives to Greenpeace to bad mouth Apple.

Greenpeace

We do not take donations from companies or governments. Any large personal donation is thoroughly checked before being accepted or returned.

We criticised HP in 2005 because they failed to commit to phasing out all BFRs and PVC: When HP changed their policy in March 2006 we acknowledged their move. If they do not meet these goals we will publicly criticise HP again as we did in Sept 2006.

It is misleading to claim Greenpeace only singles out Apple. However, as a design leader, we expect Apple to lead the pack - not only on technological innovation but also environmental policies.

9. RD: Lenovo take back ignored in the Greenpeace report.

Greenpeace

We want companies to voluntarily take back from individual consumers their WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) wherever they have sales, because this is the bigger challenge. Many companies have been taking back used IT from corporate customers for years to provide service, build brand loyalty and in the knowledge that they can sell on the used equipment. The challenge for companies is to take back WEEE from individual customers. Lenovo does sell to corporate customers but since buying the ThinkPad brand from IBM, they also sell to individual consumers but do not take back from individual consumers.

10. RD: Apple products last longer than Dell or HP products.

Greenpeace

We would definitely like to rank companies on lifespan of products, but there is no credible information on the average lifespan of different brand products. Most information is anecdotal and it is very difficult to gauge the average lifespan of specific electronic products, given reuse of electronics products.

HP estimates in its take back metric that their products last six years on average. It would be interesting to see Apple publish information on the average age of their end-of-life products when they become waste. It appears many Apple users, especially iPod customers, would be interested in this information:

If anyone can suggest credible sources of information on lifespan of products, please direct us to them.

11. RD: Nokia has some exemption to its PVC ban.

Nokia has some minor applications where PVC still needs to be removed. Major uses of PVC have been eliminated. In contrast Apple has some very minor peripherals free of PVC but no product systems free of PVC. Therefore it is clear Nokia is well ahead of Apple on PVC phase out.

Greenpeace continues to raise the use of PVC in minor Nokia components in meetings with Nokia. Substituting harmful substances is an ongoing process, as new scientific research reveals new suspect chemicals linked to harmful effects.

More about our electronics campaign.

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