Lenovo top, Apple bottom in green IT ranking

Greenpeace International has published its latest "green ranking" of the world's biggest electronics companies, and the results might surprise you.

The international environmental organization placed Lenovo Group Ltd. at the top of the list, which is based on the recycling and toxic-content policies of the companies and is intended to pressure them to reduce electronic waste. Lenovo was ranked at the bottom of 14 companies surveyed when Greenpeace first published the report in August last year.

"It's a surprise that a Chinese firm, which was bottom-place in the first edition, has climbed slowly to the top," said Zeina Alhajj, a toxics campaigner at Greenpeace.

Positions two through five in the ranking were occupied by Nokia Corp., Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications AB, Dell Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co., while the four companies ranked at the bottom ahead of Apple were Toshiba Corp., Sony Corp., LG Electronics Inc. and Matsushita Electric Industrial Co.'s Panasonic Corporation of North America unit.

Lenovo's top spot was helped by big improvements on two issues, she said. First, the company has committed to halting or mitigating the use of chemicals that could potentially be harmful even before scientific studies on the chemicals' effects are finished. It's also offering to take back end-of-life products in all countries where it operates.

"Our big disappointment is Apple," said Alhajj. Apple was ranked bottom of the list.

"Since the first version of the report, the only company that hasn't moved one point is Apple," she said. "They haven't improved one bit, which is really shocking and a huge disappointment knowing they are a leader in terms of design and have this cool image that everyone talks about. But when it comes to putting [in place] a real policy that is proactive, they are lagging."

Apple said it disagreed with the rating and the criteria Greenpeace chose.

"Apple has a strong environmental track record and has led the industry in restricting and banning toxic substances such as mercury, cadmium and hexavalent chromium, as well as many BFRs" (brominated flame retardants), the company said in an e-mailed statement. "We have also completely eliminated CRT monitors, which contain lead, from our product line. Apple desktops, notebooks and displays each score best-in-class in the new EPA ranking system EPEAT, which uses international standards set by IEEE."

Greenpeace isn't impressed that Apple has eliminated CRTs, pointing out that the industry has moved to flat-panel displays.

Last year, Greenpeace launched a campaign, Green my Apple, to persuade Apple to make more of an effort on environmental issues. It's the only one of the 14 companies to which Greenpeace has devoted a campaign Web site.

Some have defended Apple's position on environmental issues with blog postings that take issue with the claims Greenpeace makes about the dangers of some chemicals. The proportionally smaller number of computers Apple sells was also not taken into account when measuring it against companies such as Dell Inc., said one complaint. And others said that Apple leads in areas like product packaging and that to ignore that and cast the company as a foe of the environment is unfair.

The ranking (download PDF), which Greenpeace intends to publish every three months in 2007, assigns points to the 14 companies surveyed based on a number of criteria. These include timelines for phasing out the use of Polyvinyl Chloride and brominated flame retardants, the availability of voluntary takeback and recycling in all countries where a company operates, and the availability of reports on the amount of waste electrical and electronic equipment that the vendor collects and recycles.

Companies only get points for doing better than laws and regulations require, said Alhajj.

Greenpeace is hoping it can persuade companies to be more proactive and build environmental performance into their businesses.

"We are focusing on the brand names because if the market leaders change, the impact will be felt globally in the industry," said Alhajj.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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