Asian technology companies behind European counterparts

It’s mixed news for Asian companies in the latest edition of the Greenpeace Guide to Greener Electronics. In fact they dominate the last third of the research which ranks the 18 top manufacturers of personal computers, mobile phones, TVs and games consoles according to their policies on toxic chemicals, recycling and climate change.

Greenpeace’s tone is praiseworthy for the firms, even those at the bottom of the league, in part because it wants to encourage them to change rather than alienating them. Markedly, the top three positions were all European companies – Nokia, Sony Ericsson and Philips – with US firms also doing poorly. Microsoft came second last, while Apple dropped furthest, slipping from fifth to ninth.

Top of the Asian firms was Korean firm Samsung which swept up the table from 13th place to 5th, as a result of one of its penalty points being lifted and improvements in its score on chemicals.

The report said, “It remains encumbered by one penalty point, which was first imposed in v.14 of the Guide for backtracking on its commitment to eliminate brominated flame retardants (BFRs) in new models of all products by January 2010 and PVC vinyl plastic by end of 2010. The second penalty point, served in v.15 for misleading its customers and Greenpeace by not admitting that it would not meet its public commitment until the time-line for that commitment had passed, has been lifted.”

But at the other end of the scale and coming in last was Japanese gaming company Nintendo with a score of 1.8 out of 10. It got the thumbs up from Greenpeace on its use of chemicals – PVC-free internal wiring on games consoles, banning phthalates and has a precautionary principle in its approach to managing chemical substances and for publishing its standards for chemicals management. But it performs poorly on handling waste and actually increasing rather than cutting CO2 emissions and other greenhouse gases.

Chinese computer company Lenovo did get praise for improving its position in the league table to 14th position from 17th, with an increased score of 3.5, up from 1.9 points.

Greenpeace’s conclusion was that “Lenovo has made significant progress on three of the energy criteria; it now supports the need for global emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) to peak by 2015, with a 30 percent reduction in emissions from industrialised countries by 2020 and a 50 percent reduction by 2050, relative to 1990; it has set its own targets for reducing GHG emissions, aiming to eliminate or offset its scope 1 emissions by 100 percent by April 2011 and achieve absolute reductions in scope 2 emissions, with progressive targets up to 20 percent by April 2020, relative to 2008/09; it also reports the percentage of its products that meet the latest Energy Star standards, with many of its products exceeding the standard.”

Interestingly the pressure group noted that while the company had done better on reporting and cutting greenhouse gas emissions, they were not externally verified, echoing the US administrations arguments with China over future emissions cuts being independently verified.

As for Microsoft, the report is critical of an absence of improvement in the use of hazardous chemicals and substances. The criticism obviously stung as the Wall Street Journal reported the company’s response:

“Microsoft’s commitment to environmental sustainability includes strategies to minimize the impact of our operations; using IT to improve energy efficiency; and accelerating research breakthroughs that will help scientific understanding on a global scale. We acknowledge that more work remains to achieve our sustainability goals and continue to work to improve upon our efforts.

“With respect to voluntary elimination of brominated flame retardants (BFRs) and phthalates, we face challenges similar to other manufacturers of complex hardware devices in terms of the availability, suitability and cost effectiveness of BFR-free alternatives, and the overriding concern for the safety of our consumers. BFRs and phthalates remain on our roadmap for targeted elimination and our new goal to eliminate these materials is December 31, 2012.” 

League Table


Sony Ericsson












LG Electronics





Greenpeace’s ranking criteria reflect the demands of the Toxic Tech campaign to the electronics companies. Its three demands are that companies should:

  • Clean up their products by eliminating hazardous substances.

  • Take back and recycle their products responsibly once they become obsolete.

  • Reduce the climate impacts of their operations and products.

The use of harmful chemicals in electronics prevents their safe recycling when the products are discarded. Companies scored marks out of 51, which it presents on a scale of 0 to 10 for simplicity.