Dell Promises Greener Computers But Users Want More

Feature story - June 27, 2006

Just the latest high-tech company to pledge to clean up its act, Dell has joined the ranks of  HP, LGE, Nokia, Samsung, Sony, and Sony Ericsson in the effort to get toxics out of technology. Dell's decision falls close on the heels of Hewlett Packard's pledge, which the company made following a two-year Greenpeace campaign.

Technology is about cutting edge innovation, and the companies who sell it should be the leaders in the field. But for all of their innovative products and advertising, some companies are proud to stand among the dinosaurs, and refuse to evolve. Among them are some surprising hold-outs, including Apple, Fujitsu-Siemens, IBM, Lenovo, Panasonic, Siemens and Toshiba. Motorola stands out as taking, and then breaking, their pledge to clean up toxic technology.

Technology's Dirty Little Secret

Every year, hundreds of thousands of old computers and mobile phones are dumped in landfills or burned in smelters. Thousands more are exported, often illegally, from Europe, the US, Japan and other industrialised countries, to Asia. There, workers at scrap yards, including children, are exposed to a toxic cocktail of chemicals and poisons. This is the dark side of cheaper, more disposable electronics.

By removing the toxic chemicals, companies make it cleaner and easier to recycle their products. Companies that take responsibility for the whole lifecycle of their products from cradle to grave ensure that their products last longer and cause less pollution. Our vision for the industry is one that produces cleaner, longer lasting, more sustainable products that don't contribute to the growing tide of toxic, short lived products currently being dumped in Asia.

Electronics is a fast moving industry that can respond quickly to users' wishes and new trends. But this year's hottest gadget shouldn't end up as next year's e-waste, being taken apart by a child in China or India. Some companies are making positive moves and our recent survey shows that users want a cleaner industry and are willing to pay extra for it.

The Wave of the Future

A survey conducted for us by Ipsos-MORI, reveals that most people across nine countries say they would pay extra for a more environmentally friendly computer and that companies should be held responsible for dealing with their hazardous waste from PCs.

The nine country survey, carried out earlier this year, found that from half to three-quarters of computer users say that they would be willing to pay extra for an environmentally friendly computer. The amounts ranged from US$59 in Germany, US$118 in UK, US$199 in China and a whopping US$229 in Mexico.

The consumer demand is there, the only question remaining is which companies will supply it?