On Tuesday, Greenpeace released the sixth edition of its Guide to Greener Electronics. The latest report, which includes televisions and video games, ranks consumer electronics companies on the basis of how they deal with two issues: corporate recycling and removing toxic chemicals from their products.
According to Greenpeace, Microsoft, Nintendo, Philips, and Sharp rank at the bottom of the list of environmental performance. Nintendo is the first company to score zero out of a possible 10 points. Philips and Microsoft scored only 2 and 2.7, respectively.
"While it's encouraging to see Sharp and Microsoft providing timelines for the complete elimination of vinyl plastic and all brominated flame retardants across their entire product range, makers of TVs and computer games have a long way to go," said Iza Kruszewska, toxics campaigner at Greenpeace International.
The Green Police
The new edition of the quarterly guide reveals changes at the top of the ranking. Sony Ericsson has taken over the top spot from Nokia while Samsung and Sony have surged ahead to occupy second and third positions.
However, Nokia, Motorola, and Sony Ericsson each received penalty points for not fully honoring their own recycling take-back policies in the Philippines, Thailand, Argentina, Russia, and India. As a result, Nokia falls from top position to ninth and Motorola drops from ninth position to fourteenth.
"Companies shouldn't be under any illusions that Greenpeace won't check up on their claims of green greatness," warned Kruszewska. Greenpeace tested implementation of product take-back programs in the U.S., the Philippines, Thailand, Argentina, Russia, and India.
Show Me the Green
Apple, Panasonic, Samsung, Sharp, Sony, and Toshiba recently indicated that they now produce PCs, LCD panels, camcorders, and digital cameras -- or at least major components of these items -- free of vinyl plastics or brominated flame retardants.
Firms that have improved their ranking in the Greenpeace guide are those whose entire products, or major components of products, are entirely free of specified hazardous ingredients. Companies that simply commit to eliminating harmful chemicals sometime in the future achieve a lower score.
"To achieve higher rankings, companies really need to walk the talk instead of making vague commitments to future progress," said Rick Hind, legislative director of the Greenpeace toxics campaign in the U.S. "Environmental leadership and innovation are evident as companies put products on the market free of hazardous chemicals and institute recycling take-back programs which are actually operational."
For all Greenpeace's efforts, though, David Daoud, manager of the personal computing and PC tracker programs at IDC, said some of the companies listed as among the worst offenders are performing well in the marketplace. That, he said, suggests two things.
"Certainly, messages coming from Greenpeace and environmentalists do play a role in shaping the political and environmental agenda, and it's clear that companies manufacturing products pay attention to these lists," Daoud said. "On the other hand, consumers are hearing it but they are not taking action yet because environmental issues haven't really affected them directly."
At the end of the day, Daoud said, most consumers continue to purchase PCs and other consumer electronics on the basis of budgets and personal needs. He predicted a coming day when these sorts of metrics will play a much bigger role, but for now, he said, the Greenpeace message isn't influencing the mainstream market.