Greenpeace today released the latest edition of its Guide to Greener Electronics, and once again PC makers were given low marks. The nonprofit organization ranked 18 global PC and mobile manufacturers on their policies and practices related to energy, chemicals and e-waste. On a scale from 0 through 10, none of the PC makers were assigned ratings above 6.
The use of chemicals including polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic and brominated flame retardants (BRFs) was of particular concern, Greenpeace said. Dell (13th overall), Hewlett Packard (14th), and Lenovo (16th) failed to improve their low scores from the previous edition, partly due, according to Greenpeace, to them “backtracking” on their commitments to eliminate these chemicals from their products by the end of the year. Much of the world’s e-waste ends up in landfills around the globe, from which chemicals seep into the atmosphere and the groundwater supply and create potential health hazards for people, animals and plant life.
But manufacturers of mobile products have embraced greener practices more than PC makers, according to the survey. Nokia came in first, followed by Samsung and Sony Ericsson. Greenpeace attributed the high scores to aggressive take-back policies and the elimination of chemicals in their products. Nokia, for example, has a voluntary take-back program across 84 countries with nearly 5,000 collection points for end-of-life mobile phones.
While PC and mobile makers have room for improvement, we’ve long argued that the IT industry has been one of the sectors leading the embrace of greener policies, from manufacturing processes (which this guide looked at) to the creation of less power-hungry PCs, servers and other devices. As important as the IT industry is for creating a greener world, we wonder why Greenpeace hasn’t also dug into even dirtier industries, like construction.
Interestingly, a new study published today by NextGen Research found that computer and server makers are making their products increasingly green. The newest equipment consumes less energy and uses fewer toxic substances in their construction. And most vendors will take their products back at the end of life for reuse or recycling, according to NextGen. The market for green desktop and notebook computers will grow from less than a sixth of the $249 billion PC market in 2009 to nearly two-thirds of the $323 billion PC market in 2013, according to the research firm.
But it’s important to remember that PC and mobile makers aren’t shifting to greener products and practices simply because they want to be more environmentally friendly. In some cases green initiatives can be economical, such as with reducing packaging and using recycled plastics. But these companies are largely responding to what they believe their customers want, and efforts like those by Greenpeace to inform the public about the eco-rankings helps to push this trend.