HP, Lenovo and Dell penalized for breaking their green IT promises

Feature story - July 1, 2009
We're giving HP, Lenovo and Dell--the world's biggest PC makers--a penalty point in our updated scorecard for backtracking on their commitments to eliminate PVC plastic and brominated flame retardants (BFRs) from their products by the end of 2009.

Staff at HP's Dutch headquarters were greeted on arrival by Greenpeace activists confronting them with pictures of the pollution HP's toxic products cause in Asia and Africa. The PC giant has already received a public reminder of the need to reprioritize toxic chemical phase out, when activists returned "toxic laptops" to the company's Chinese headquarters on July 1.

Hold them to their word

We will keep up the pressure on HP and other companies who fail to live up to their voluntary commitments.

There are no excuses for backtracking, and no reason for these companies not to have PCs free of PVC and BFRs. PVC contaminates humans and the environment throughout its lifecycle; during its production, use, and disposal it is the single most environmentally damaging of all plastics, and can form dioxin, a known carcinogen, when burned. BFRs are highly resistant to degradation in the environment and are able to bio-accumulate (build up in animals and humans) and can be released from products during use, leading to their presence in household dust and resulting in increased human exposure.

In 14th place HP continues to lag behind other PC brands in the ranking, having postponed its 2007 commitment to phase out PVC and BFRs from its computer products (excluding its server and printer lines) from 2009 to 2011. Unlike Dell and Lenovo, however, HP is not even putting PVC- and BFR-reduced products on the market.

Nokia remains top with 7.4 out of 10, and Samsung (2nd) and Sony Ericsson (3rd) catching up with 7.1 and 6.5 points respectively. LGE, Toshiba and Motorola move up the ranking to take 4th, 5th and 6th place. Sony drops down from 5th to 12th position, as it has not kept pace with progress made by other companies, especially on e-waste recycling performance. At the bottom Lenovo also drops down due to further weakening of its commitment on toxic chemicals phase-out.

Apple makes BFR-free and (almost) PVC-free computers

Apple's new computer lines, virtually free of PVC and completely BFR-free, demonstrate the technical feasibility and supply-chain readiness of producing alternatives to these hazardous substances. Dell, Lenovo and Acer have also stayed ahead of HP, putting models on the market that are free, or at least significantly reduced in their use, of PVC and BFRs. Dell recently engaged in a public spat with Apple over Apple's claims to have the greenest family of notebooks.

It's ridiculous that some companies, such as Dell, are busy challenging Apple's advertising claims when Apple is clearly leading its competitors on toxics phase out. All PC companies should be concentrating on matching or beating Apple's lead on this important issue.

There's no excuse now

We're calling on companies to eliminate BFRs and PVC from their product range. These substances are harmful throughout the entire lifecycle of a product; phase-out reduces pollution during the production and disposal of electronics and makes products capable of being recycled in a responsible manner.

It's technically feasible, and consumers want it too, but above all the electronics industry needs to clean up urgently as a matter of principle. Their e-waste is poisoning the poor.

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