While these companies have made progress at removing toxic chemicals from the mobile phones, computers and tablets they produce, their manufacturing and supply chains are still too heavily dependent on dirty energy sources that are contributing to climate change.
Greenpeace International’s 18th version of the Guide to Greener Electronics ranked 16 electronics companies based on their commitment and progress in three environmental criteria: Energy and Climate, Greener Products and Sustainable Operations.
“The next big environmental challenge for consumer electronics companies is to reduce their carbon pollution,” said Greenpeace International IT analyst Casey Harrell. “Consumers have stated that they want greener electronics, which means high functioning gadgets that are built and powered by renewable energy.”
The bulk of the carbon footprint associated with many electronic devices is buried in the manufacturing chain, where the electronic devices are assembled. More carbon is used in the manufacture of some gadgets, such as tablets and smart phones, than consumers ever use after buying them.
“Companies should work with their suppliers to implement more efficient manufacturing processes and to power the supply chain with renewable energy, not fossil fuels, just as they have successfully done to reduce the toxic materials in electronics,” Harrell said.
As global electronics use grows, only corporate environmental leadership can prevent increased electronic waste and ensure that the industry transitions to using clean energy to manufacture its products. Electronic companies have also gained political power in many countries, meaning their advocacy for clean energy can impact government policy.
The Indian technology firm Wipro topped the ranking in its first appearance in the International version of the Guide to Greener Electronics. Wipro scored the most points due to its efforts to embrace renewable energy and advocacy for greener energy policies in India. Wipro also scored well for post-consumer e-waste collection for recycling and for phasing out hazardous substances from its products.
“Wipro has set a new benchmark for sustainability, not only in India but across the globe, that will have a long-term impact in shaping the green energy debate in the electronics industry,” said Greenpeace India Senior Campaigner Abhishek Pratap. “The rest of the electronics sector should follow in the footsteps of Wipro’s climate leadership.”
HP dropped from No. 1 in last year’s edition of the guide to No. 2. Nokia moved up from No. 4 to No. 3. Taiwanese computer maker Acer was the most improved company in the guide, moving up nine spots to No. 4 for engaging with its suppliers on greenhouse gas emissions, hazardous substances, conflict minerals and fibre sourcing. Dell dropped from No. 3 to No. 5. Apple dropped slightly from No. 5 in last year’s edition to No. 6. Blackberry maker RIM did not improve from its 16th ranking, the bottom of the group.
The Greenpeace Guide to Greener Electronics, launched in 2006, has prompted improvements within the electronics industry, including the phase-out of hazardous substances from products. The guide is part of Greenpeace’s wider campaign to push the IT industry to develop the solutions needed for a global clean energy revolution.