Friday, 19 September 2008

Greenpeace Green Electronics Rankings

Greenpeace has released it's latest quarterly ranking of the 18 top manufacturers of personal computers, mobile phones, TV's and games consoles according to their policies on toxic chemicals, recycling and climate change. The latest rankings are below.

When I reported the last rankings back in June I received some feedback from manufacturers expressing concern about the methodology and the focus of the rankings, so this time I talked to Greenpeace to get their perspective.

The assessment is based on the chemicals used in manufacture, responsibilities around recycling and the climate impacts of companies and products. It's also prioritised in that order - Greenpeace's initial concerns when it started the rankings were around toxic chemicals - energy issues were only added later - and the use of hazardous materials remains the deciding factor if all else is equal.

The concerns that I received were around the fact that energy efficiency claims had to be published on a web site, but it wasn't clear how this should be done, which left it open to some gamesmanship. I believe this issue has been clarified and Greenpeace also pointed out that the data used is a spin off from the information reported to the EPA in the US for Energy Star rankings.

Another issue was around companies making promises that they don't carry out, e.g. to reduce the use of a particular chemical. Whilst Greenpeace does do some testing itself (and has had some success) I guess the resources are limited to check up on a wide range of products from many vendors. The organisation did say, though, that manufacturers report back if they feel their competitors are not living up to their promises!

A third issue was around the use of alternatives for chemicals that Greenpeace wants banned - there are issues around finding suitable alternatives without impacting other aspects such as product safety. Greenpeace pointed out that there can be alternative solutions, rather than just replacement chemicals, and there have been some innovative designs already to get round problems.

This is a good effort from Greenpeace and should help push the market to be more environmentally friendly. You can argue about whether they've got the priorities right, but not about the process itself, provided:

- there is a level playing field, i.e. everyone knows what information Greenpeace needs and how to provide it

- manufacturers are open and honest (and it looks like they'll increasingly get caught out if they aren't)

- the rankings are clear. Companies are scored out of a total of 51 and if there's a tie the score on chemical use takes priority over recycling and recycling takes priority over climate change. It's all on the Greenpeace web site somewhere, but it could be made a lot clearer.

© The Green IT Review

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