HP, Lenovo and Dell still on the toxic stuff

Top PC makers are slipping behind in Guide to Greener Electronics

Feature story - 31 March, 2009
We're giving HP, Lenovo and Dell a penalty point in our updated Guide to Greener Electronics, for breaking their promises to phase-out toxic chemicals in 2009. Of the world's five top PC makers, only Apple is truly kicking the habit. Meanwhile Philips has jumped from 15th to 4th place in the list of electronics companies who are cleaning up their act.

Greenpeace activists demonstrate against e-waste outside the Hewlett Packard (HP) Beijing headquarters.

HP, Lenovo and Dell had promised to eliminate vinyl plastic (PVC) and brominated flame retardants (BFRs) from their products by the end of 2009. Now they've told us that they won't make it this year.

The phase-out of toxic substances is an urgent priority to help tackle the growing tide of e-waste. Still, producers only go green when they feel public and consumer pressure to do so. That's why we campaign.

Dell produces a desktop, a notebook and several models of monitors that have a reduced use of PVC and BFRs, and a few monitor models that are free of these substances. Lenovo has two models available that are PVC and BFR-free. HP is trailing behind, and has yet to bring out models with even a reduced use of PVC and BFRs.

While HP and Dell have yet to set a new timeline for completely eliminating these substances from all their products, Lenovo has delayed its deadline to the end of 2010.

Two-step detox for companies: Come clean, go green

The Guide to Greener Electronics, now in its 11th update, shows which electronics companies are investing to meet their commitments to remove toxic substances from their products, tackle climate change, and introduce better recycling and take-back policies. When electronics companies pay for the collection (take-back) and recycling of their own products, they have the added incentive to develop cleaner, more recyclable products.

Apple can do it

Apple doesn't have certified PVC-free power cords yet, but in every other way its products are now PVC and BFR free. If Apple can do it, then so should the other leading PC manufacturers.

We believe all electronics companies should have at least one toxic-free line of products on the market by the end of the year. Acer currently remains committed to phasing out PVC and BFRs in 2009.

Philips springing forward

The Guide to Greener Electronics star this time goes to Philips -- and the 47,000 people who sent emails to the company!

The Dutch electronics giant reacted to our e-waste campaign with a dramatic about-turn on recycling and take-back. It's jumped from 15th to 4th place in one go. Following public pressure, the company has significantly improved its position on taking financial responsibility for the recycling of its products when they become e-waste.

Philips still needs to implement a system to make it work, but we're delighted with the direction it's heading in.

Individual producer responsibility is the gift that keeps giving

Recycling costs are influenced by the amount of toxic chemicals present and how easy products are to recycle.

This "pay for the mess you make" approach is called "Individual producer responsibility", and it's crucial to the greener development of the electronics industry.

Climate Change on the agenda

Despite an overall slump in scores in the toxics categories, companies are starting to improve their scores on energy criteria. IT is a key sector in the fight against climate change and could enable emissions reductions of 15 percent of business-as-usual by 2020.

Samsung joins Philips in publically demonstrating support for global steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to tackle climate change. Dell and Nokia join HP and Philips in making commitments to substantial cuts in greenhouse gas emissions from their own operations.

Several companies are now increasing their use of renewable energy, with Nokia already sourcing a quarter of its electricity use from renewables.

Climate challenge to IT execs

Exposing electronics companies to public pressure is helping to green the industry. They could do much more, not only to clean up their own act, but to help the planet avoid runaway climate change.

Introducing the IT Climate Leadership Challenge. The aim this year is simply to get influential IT execs to lobby key governments for a strong, planet-saving agreement at the December 2009 climate change summit in Copenhagen.

Right now we can't see anybody in the IT industry using their access to politicians -- and their influence as major employers and wealth creators -- to lobby for a strong Copenhagen deal. Meanwhile dirty industries are lobbying like there's no tomorrow. So we'll soon launch an international "who's who" and "who's doing what" of top IT execs we want to see leading the way.

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