Electronics companies race to be greener

Feature story - December 6, 2006
It's been just 5 months since we released our first report card on the world's leading electronic companies, grading their use of toxic chemicals in popular products like computers and cell phones. Already, many of the companies are in a race to reach the head of the class - that is, except for Apple, who seems determined to remain behind rather than be the teacher's pet we'd hoped for. Instead, companies like Acer and Lenovo have leap-frogged the competition, becoming the latest top computer makers to commit to stop using the worst toxic chemicals in their products. Along with Motorola, these companies are the biggest movers in the latest version of our Guide to Greener Electronics.

Our guide ranks the 14 top manufacturers of PC's and mobile phones on toxic chemicals and recycling policies. The public ranking has been successful in spurring many of the companies to improve their policies.

"We are witnessing a global shift towards greener PCs, with Acer and Lenovo, two major producers of PCs, committing to eliminate the use of the most hazardous chemicals from their products range," said Iza Kruszewska, Greenpeace International toxics campaigner, "Most companies now score above average points on the ranking guide, with only five companies failing to score even the average of five points.

Full Ranking

The ranking is important because the amounts of toxic e-waste is growing everyday, and it often ends up dumped in the developing world. Reducing the toxic chemicals in products reduces pollution from old products and makes recycling safer, easier, and cheaper. Companies with good recycling schemes help ensure that their products don't end up in the e-waste yards of Asia.

Green Movers

Nokia continues to hold the top spot in the ranking, with progressive policies on both, its chemicals policy as well as disposal of electronic waste. However, the company is yet to outline clear timelines for phasing out the toxic plastic PVC (vinyl) in all of its products.

Motorola has been the fastest mover in the ranking guide. From second worst in the first version of the guide, it has made strong commitments, and moved up to fourth place. Lenovo has also made strong policy commitments, to jump from the bottom to 8th place. Fujitsu-Siemens and Acer made substantial progress and are now ranked 3rd and 7th respectively, moving up from their earlier 10th and 12th positions.

Must do better

Apple has made no improvements in its policies and is now at the bottom of the ranking. While its competition continues to improve, the world leader in innovation and design is falling further and further behind.

We'd expect an innovative company who takes pride in 'thinking different' to be at the top of the ranking - so we've launched the Green my Apple campaign where Mac fans can send a clear message to Apple - we love our Mac, but we wish it came in green.

LGE, Samsug, and Sony have lost points for failing to act on their commitments to take responsibility for thier waste; instead, the companies are supporting regulation that would place the responsibility for product recycling on consumers instead of producers.

In September 2006, HP had one point deducted from its overall score when analysis of an HP laptop revealed the presence of a type of toxic chemical that HP claimed it no longer used. HP was quick to respond and investigated the matter and has now released a statement on its website, so the penalty point has been lifted.

By turning the public spotlight on top electronics companies and challenging them to outrank their competition, the guide has succeeded in motivating many companies to improve their policies on chemicals and waste. Surely it's just a matter of time until Apple responds to calls from its own fans, and leaps to the top of the ranking?

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