You’ve probably seen the regular coverage of the quarterly Greenpeace ’Guide to Greener Electronics‘, which ranks manufacturers on overall corporate policies and practices, on these pages. By contrast, Greenpeace also has an annual survey that consists of an in-depth evaluation of the products that the manufacturers themselves considered to be their greenest. For the last couple of years the report has been released at the Consumer Electronics Show, which has just ended in Las Vegas.
For this latest version, in June 2010 Greenpeace asked 21
companies to submit the greenest products that would be on the market by November 1, 2010. Each company was allowed to submit three products per category and the highest-scoring device was included in the report. In all 18 companies submitted products. Those that declined were Apple and Philips (it’s not clear who the third one was). In any case Greenpeace assessed Philips’ Econova TV and Apple’s Macbook Pro MC374 to see how they would have performed.
Product categories were desktop, notebook and netbook computers, mobile phones and smart phones, LCD and plasma screen televisions and LCD computer monitors. Products were assessed on four broad criteria:
• Use of hazardous chemical substances.
• Power consumption of the products. Products were assessed by comparing them with the EPA’s Energy Star standards - the more a product exceeded the standards, the more points were awarded.
• Product lifecycle - such as the percentage of recycled plastic used in the product, the length of warranty and the availability of replacement parts.
• Innovation and marketing earned points for data on the energy taken to produce a product, the visibility of the product on company websites, other features, etc.
And the winners were:
There’s much more detail in the full survey report, called Towards Green Electronics, but Greenpeace had three main findings. Firstly, there has been a significant reduction in the use of hazardous chemicals in these products. Secondly, almost all products met or exceeded the current Energy Star standards, although companies are putting much more effort into improving the energy efficiency of products rather than assessing and reducing the embedded energy from manufacture. Thirdly, lifecycle management is still the weakest point, i.e. the ability for products to be recycled, take-back practices and marketing efforts to prevent fast obsolescence of products.
So overall the news is not too bad, although with much room for improvement – the variations in scores between manufacturers shows how much improvement is possible. Greenpeace has also included a ‘Possible product’ score in each category which show what could be achieved by combining the highest scores allocated in the various category assessments.
But as Greenpeace points out, at least companies are becoming more transparent in the amount and type of product information they provide to customers – if only Apple and Philips would take part!