If you ask any of my children, what they want for the holidays, inevitably some sort of electronic product is mentioned. According to a 2010 Consumer Electronic Association study, the average US household spends $1380 on electronic purchases. So, how do we pursue our electronic passion but keep it green as well? Every year, Greenpeace compiles its Guide to Greener Electronics.
HP took the top spot with an overall score of 5.9/10. The company received the strongest scores in sustainable operations and energy criteria. However, the reviewers noted that HP could work on their green product criteria. In second place was Dell followed by Nokia in third. To see the rest of the rankings, see here.
Despite HP’s first place finish, I was struck by the company’s score. The company only scored 5.9/10, which is slightly above the median. Dell’s score of 5.1/10 and Nokia’s score of 4.9 were close to 50% compliance with the criteria list. The last place contenders, LG, Toshiba, and Rim all scored below 3.0/10. Given these scores, the electronic industry still has much work to do.
How Are the Rankings Calculated?
Greenpeace’s guide is in its 17th year. It rates the top 15 leading mobile, phone, TV and PC manufacturers in the areas of energy and climate, greener products and sustainable operations.
Both Microsoft and Nintendo were removed from the Guide due to their limited product portfolio. In addition, Motorola and Fujitsu have been removed due to their reduction in their global share.
Previous versions of the guide focused on chemicals, e-waste, and energy criteria. E-waste has been a huge concern of mine since I reported about how electronic equipment waste ended up in third world countries. However, this year, the team decided to re-write and strength the criteria as well as adding paper sourcing and conflict minerals under sustainable operations and product life cycle analysis to greener products.
The new criteria is as follows:
“Criteria on Energy and Climate
The criteria that companies will be evaluated on are:
- Disclosure of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions
- Commitment to reduce the company’s own short term and long term GHG emissions
- A Clean Energy Plan, which includes increasing use of Renewable Energy (RE) and
- energy efficiency measures to implement cuts in GHGs
- Advocacy for a Clean Energy Policy at national and sub-national level
Criteria on Greener Products
These criteria focus on the environmental performance of consumer electronics, across a number of different issues.
- Energy efficiency of new models of specified products
- Products free from hazardous substances
- Use of recycled plastics in products
- Product life cycle
Criteria on Sustainable Operations
These criteria examine how companies implement environmental considerations during manufacture in their supply chain through to the end-of-life phase of a product
- Reduction of GHG emissions from energy use by suppliers
- Policy, practice and advocacy on chemicals management
- Policy and practice on sustainable sourcing of fibres for paper
- Policy and practice on avoidance of conflict minerals
- Producer responsibility for voluntary take-back of e-waste
Depending on the complexity of the criteria and the focus of Greenpeace campaigns, the maximum points awarded per criteria vary between 3, 5 and 8 points.
Companies have the opportunity to improve their score, as the Guide will be periodically updated. However, penalty points will be deducted from overall scores if Greenpeace finds a company lying, practicing double standards or regressive advocacy, and other corporate misconduct.”
For further information, see their Ranking Criteria PDF on their website.
Greenpeace company assessments are based upon public information and practices to ensure that its ranking is transparent. They feel that when companies make changes publicly, it drives competition among the other electronic companies.
Social Responsibility Is Not Part of the Criteria
As you might have noticed from the above list of criteria, Greenpeace does not rank companies based upon their social responsibility metrics, labor standards or other issues. I was a little perplexed as to why these criteria was not included. Casey Harrell, spokesperson for Greenpeace replied via email and stated,
“the basics are: we think that fair trade and employee issues are important, and since, as an organization are not experts in these areas, we don’t assess companies on their performance and instead recommend other groups (as we have on our website) that deal with these issues more directly, such as Good Electronics and Make IT Fair.”
(For your information, Good Electronics focuses on international human rights and sustainability in electronics. On the other hand, Make IT Fair is a European project which focuses on labor abuses and environmental problems in the electronic industry.)
How Has the Guide Change the Consumer Electronic Industry?
Realize that the Guide criteria only ranks companies. It do not assess individual products unlike some companies such as Good Guide. However, the Guide opens the conversation about a company’s environmental stance. According to Greenpeace, the Guide has been instrumental in changing the environmental commitment of the consumer electronic industry.
“Since the Guide was launched in August 06 it (together with increased coverage and awareness of toxics in electronics and e-waste) has driven numerous improvements.
Many companies are thus removing the worst toxic chemicals from their products and improving their recycling schemes. This demonstrates that many of the companies ranked in the Guide not only take the results very seriously but also take action to improve their performance and of course ranking.”
No one wants to be in last place. Public perception is everything.
Join the Conversation:
- Does this guide dissuade you from buying a product from one company over the other based upon their rankings in the Guide?
- Do you focus more on the individual product’s sustainability versus the company’s overall sustainability practices?
- Do you feel the Guide has been instrumental in consumer electronic manufacturer changes?
- What is your biggest green wish list for change in the electronic industry?
- What type of electronic are you buying this year? Do you care equally about its green rating and functionality?
It is very hard to get points. Powering your buildings with sustainable energy won’t even get you a point. I have found that they aren’t really looking for the little things but rather that companies have developed policies and targets and that they are actively working at meeting or exceeding those targets.
I see merit in this list and think it is a really great thing but I don’t think anyone will ever get close to 10 because it is damn hard to get points. But maybe that is a good thing? Maybe it should be really really hard to get 10 as it is something for companies to strive for.
I would love to see this same sort of ranking for other industries!
Anna@Green Talk says
Jen, I agree. But if Greenpeace keeps upping the bar, the industry will hopefully follow suit. If you notice, the top contender only is a little more than half way there.
There are so many different organizations with different rating and certifications. It is maddening since sometimes you are looking at apples to apples. I wish there was more of a uniform rating system. Which one do you like?
My concern is that it will be impossible to get to 10 (as it is now). I have read all the companies reports and some of them are doing really amazing things and yet they still are scoring so very low. Perhaps the issue is that they aren’t promoting or communicating what they are doing in enough detail to their shareholders (and to Greenpeace since they only use information that is public for this ranking). It is a highly confidential industry so maybe it is time for a bit more transparency.
It would be interesting to see what makes a company’s rank change year to year. So if HP drops a point, as a consumer I would want to know why.
I’m not sure that there is any ranking system that I like because like you said they all look at different things in different ways so it is impossible to compare. Okay I do like the EWG’s Cosmetic Safety Database because it is less about the company and more just that product. It helps me to narrow down the products I am looking to use and then I can go research the company to see if they are killing bunnies or dumping into the river.