Greenpeace's Guide to Greener Electronics version 10: companies are stalling on real climate action

Press release - December 12, 2008
Now in its tenth edition, the Greenpeace Guide to Greener Electronics shows that most consumer electronics companies have been slow to get serious about climate change. Despite much green marketing, many brands still show little engagement with the issue.

Image shows dismantling of laptops to enable testing of individual components and materials for a range of hazardous substances as part of a Greenpeace study ‘Toxic Chemicals in Computers Exposed’ that revealed the presence of toxic substances in five well-known brand laptops, with HP and Apple having the highest contamination levels.

Image shows dismantling of laptops to enable testing of individual components and materials for a range of hazardous substances as part of a Greenpeace study ‘Toxic Chemicals in Computers Exposed’ that revealed the presence of toxic substances in five well-known brand laptops, with HP and Apple having the highest contamination levels.

Since the first edition of the Greener Electronics Guide in August 2006, there have been gradual improvements on toxic and e-waste issues, but only a minority of companies are really leading on energy and climate change. Motorola, Microsoft, Dell, Apple, Lenovo, Samsung, Nintendo and LG Electronics are notably lagging behind, with no plans to cut absolute emissions from their own operations and no support for the targets and timelines needed to avoid catastrophic climate change [1]. These huge companies could make a big difference by doing their part to avoid a climate crisis and asking their governments to do the same.

To be green, electronics companies need to equally address energy, toxics elimination, and recycling. In the last three editions of the Guide, the climate and energy criteria [2] have examined companies on their direct emissions, their product performance, use of renewable energy and their political support for emission cuts. The required shift to a low-carbon economy will require much smarter work practices.  However, as the ranking shows, there have been no big leaps in the improvement of the companies' practices with regard to the climate and energy criteria.

"It is disappointing that such innovative and fast-changing companies are moving so slowly, when they could be turning the regulation we need on global emissions into a golden business opportunity," said Greenpeace Southeast Asia Toxics Campaigner Beau Baconguis.  "The electronics sector is in a position to make a big difference with regard to energy efficient practices.  As a global industry, companies' energy efficiency and renewable energy policies will make significant impacts in their production centers, such as in the Philippines where many electronic components are assembled.  Recent studies also say that the world's IT systems account for 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions [3], companies must take responsibility to proactively reduce this.  But sadly, it appears that the consumer electronics industry is much better at rhetoric than facing the reality that absolute emission cuts are urgently needed."

With less travel and higher energy prices, companies providing smart and efficient technology solutions could leap forwards in tomorrow's business environment. Instead, only three--Fujitsu Siemens Computers (FSC), Philips and Sharp--support the level of cuts in greenhouse gases that science requires. Only Philips and Hewlett Packard (HP) get top marks for committing to making absolute reductions in their own greenhouse gas emissions from the product manufacture and supply chain.

Many companies gain points from their products' efficiency improvements--half of the 18 ranked brands now score over 5/10 in the guide. However, only three commit to making cuts in greenhouse gas emissions from their own operations. Most companies use little renewable energy, even though some manufacture solar panels. Nokia, which remains in pole position, sources 25% of its total electricity use from renewable energy and is committed to sourcing 50% by 2010. Other brands with points for renewable energy use are FSC, Microsoft, Toshiba, Motorola and Philips.

Some who display best practice on energy issues are still shirking their responsibilities on toxics. Philips, for example, has lobbied the European Commission against Individual Producer Responsibility. HP does not have any products free of specific hazardous substances on the market and no commitment to eliminate further problematic chemicals. Those who score well on toxic chemical criteria already have products on the market free of the worst substances, including Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Toshiba, FSC and Sharp.

Overall, the biggest moves up the ranking are Motorola, (from 15th to joint 7th ), Toshiba (from 7th to 3rd ) and Sharp, (up from 16th to 10th ). The companies falling down the ranking are the PC brands Acer, Dell, HP and Apple. Although Apple drops a place, it has improved its total score this time because of better reporting on the carbon footprint of its products, and although not scoring any extra points, its new iPods are now free of both PVC and brominated flame retardants (BFRs).

Other contacts: Beau Baconguis, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Toxics Campaigner, +63 917 871 5257, +63 2 332 1807 loc 119, beau.bacongui Lea Guerrero, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Media Campaigner, +63 920 950 6877, +63 2 332 1807 loc 121,

Notes: [1] Science shows that global emissions must peak in 2015, and that means developed countries must cut emissions 30% by 2020. In just two weeks, world leaders meet in Poland to continue discussions on how to strengthen the global climate treaty, the Kyoto Protocol. [2] Energy and climate criteria for the guide are: support for global mandatory reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions disclosure of the company's own GHG emissions plus emissions from two stages of the supply chain; Commitment to reduce the company's own GHG emissions with timelines; Amount of renewable energy used; Energy efficiency of new models (companies score double on this criterion). [3] Revolutionizing Data Center Energy Efficiency, McKinsey & Company July 1008 (http://www.mckinsey.com/clientservice/bto/pointofview/pdf/Revolutionizing_Data_Center_Efficiency.pdf)

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