Enough greenwashing, its time to act, Greenpeace tells HCL

Press release - August 30, 2007
NEW DELHI, India — Greenpeace activists today staged a “shame-HCL” protest at the company’s headquarters in Noida, demanding that the company make clear and binding commitments to green its operations. Unfurling a banner that read “Hazardous Chemicals unLimited”, Greenpeace activists occupied the roof of the security hut and refused to move until the company accepted its demands to end the use of hazardous chemicals in its products and accept responsibility for its end-of-life products.

Greenpeace activists protest at HCL’s headquarters in Noida against the company’s ‘greenwashing’ and failure to make clear commitments on the phase out of hazardous chemicals from its computers.

Greenpeace criticised HCL's position on hazardous chemical phaseout, recently announced on its website (1), as misleading 'greenwash'. HCL has talked about "striving" to phase out PVC and BFRs, once "economically viable technical solutions" exist.

"Greenpeace is reminding HCL, the Indian market leader, that they cannot evade responsibility by voicing vague aspirations, with no clear time commitments (1). They must have a time-bound, operational road map, with binding commitments, to phase out all toxics and implement a free and easy take back system," said Pranav Sinha, Greenpeace Toxics Campaigner. "The solutions already exist! If global electronics leaders can move in less than a year to free their products of toxics and implement take back programmes, what is holding HCL back? Are they unable to compete at the highest level?" Sinha queried.

The presence of harmful chemicals in electronic products and computers, including those sold by HCL, is confronting India with an environmental nightmare. Greenpeace has discovered scientific evidence of worker and community exposure to toxic chemicals from e-waste (3) (4). Going by government estimates, it would be possible to postulate that HCL, via its desktop sales, might have distributed several million kilos of plastics and electronic components that could contain PVC, lead and BFRs (2). These are potent toxins that can cause severe health problems, and some have been phased out in most countries through legislation such as RoHS (5).

"If HCL does not want to be seen as a major contributor to the e-waste crisis, it must not only take urgent steps to clean its products of all hazardous substances, but also lead India's IT brigade by setting practical and transparent systems of take back and recycling of end of life products, with clear financial brand responsibility (6)", continued Sinha.

Most global companies are now marketing products free of some of the worst chemicals, while designing even cleaner products for the future. Some Sony Vaio laptops already have Printed Circuit Boards that are totally BFR free. Panasonic, Nokia, Sony Ericsson and Motorola also have electronic products that are completely PVC free.

By confronting HCL, Greenpeace is issuing a warning to all other Indian and global electronics companies on their practices in India. Greenpeace wants clear evidence that there are no double standards in India with respect to RoHS compliance and global commitments on hazardous substance phase out and on take back policies.

"In the total absence of any Indian e-waste legislation, our country will continue to be inundated with products containing hazardous substances. A level playing field can be ensured only when Indian IT majors like HCL proactively engage the government to first implement a mandatory RoHS-like measure in India, and then implement legislation based on the concept of Individual Producer Responsibility", reiterated Pranav Sinha.

For further information, contact

For further information, contact
Pranav Sinha, Toxics Campaigner, Greenpeace India, M: 098808 21149

Ramapati Kumar, Toxics Campaigner, Greenpeace India, M: 098455 35414,

Saumya Tripathy, Greenpeace India Communications M: 09343862212

Notes to Editor

1. http://www.hclinfosystems.in/hclesafe_pvc.html

2. The Central Pollution Control Board has released figures for hazardous materials in the average desktop computer. Since HCL has not announced the production of desktops free of hazardous substances, the assumption is that this is not the case. Going by these CPCB estimates and HCL’s desktop sales in FY 2005-2006, it is possible to approximate the quantity of hazardous materials that might have been distributed into the environment. These hazardous materials will probably end up in the informal sector where they will leach into the environment or could create even more dangerous and carcinogenic substances like dioxins and furans.

3. A study conducted by Greenpeace in recycling yards in India (2005) detected high levels of hazardous chemicals at and around the workplace.

4. A study conducted by the US EPA (Gullet, 2007) confirms the generation of carcinogenic and hormone disrupting chemicals like dioxins and furans from open burning of cables and printed wiring boards. See page one of EPR Report (note 6)

5. RoHS = Restriction on Hazardous Substances

6. ‘Extended Producer Responsibility in a non-OECD context’ details how regulatory legislation based on Brand Responsibility will nip the e-waste crisis in the bud. The EPR report also describes how Brands in the absence of such legislation already can start with EPR practical solutions on the ground.