Samsung, Huawei, Amazon failing ‘green’ electronics guide

Apple and Fairphone are ahead of tech brands such as Samsung, Huawei, and Amazon, which are failing to take responsibility for their environmental footprint, according to Greenpeace USA’s latest “Guide to Greener Electronics”.

green guide

Greenpeace USA scored 17 of the world’s leading tech companies based on their transparency, performance, and advocacy efforts in three areas critical to putting the sector on a sustainable path: reduction of emissions through renewable energy, use of recycled materials, and elimination of hazardous chemicals.

“Tech companies claim to be at the forefront of innovation, but their supply chains are stuck in the Industrial Age. We know they can change. Rather than fuelling climate change, these companies need to show the way forward, just as some companies like Google and Apple have with data centres run on renewables,” said Gary Cook, senior IT campaigner at Greenpeace USA.

Dell and HP follow Apple and Fairphone with a C+, while eleven companies, including Samsung, Huawei and Amazon, fall in the D and F range.

Despite its central position as both the largest manufacturer of smartphones and one of the largest suppliers of displays, Samsung manufacturing system heavily relies on fossil fuels. The company used more than 16,000 GWh of energy in 2016, with just 1% coming from renewables.

Key findings include:

• Supply chains driving demand for dirty energy: Up to 80% of carbon emissions over a device’s lifetime occurs during manufacturing. While Apple, Google, and other Internet companies are making progress transitioning their data centers to renewable energy, nearly all of the companies have yet to address the rapidly growing carbon footprint and dependence on dirty energy in their supply chains. Apple is the only company so far that has committed to 100% renewable power for its supply chain.

• Planned obsolescence as a design feature: Apple, Microsoft, and Samsung are among the companies moving in the wrong direction on sustainable product design – many of their latest products are difficult to repair or upgrade. HP, Dell, and Fairphone are the notable exceptions to this trend, producing a growing number of products that are repairable and upgradable.

• Lack of transparency on supply chain impacts: Most companies, including Amazon, Google, Huawei and the other Chinese brands Oppo, Vivo and Xiaomi, lack transparency on their suppliers, keeping the environmental footprint of their supply chain hidden from view.

• Lack of transparency and monitoring of workplace chemicals: To protect worker health and safety, all companies need to identify and eliminate hazardous chemicals used in the production of their products, and improve worker health and safety due diligence. Apple, Dell, Google, HP and Microsoft are the only companies in the Guide that publish their list of substances that must be restricted in the manufacturing of their devices (MRSL).

From 2006 to 2012, Greenpeace published the Guide with regularity, and as a result saw steady progress from companies to phase-out hazardous materials and make their devices more energy efficient.

“It’s clear the impacts of the linear take-make-waste business model of device manufacturers extend beyond the concerns of e-waste. We need to see greater ambition, more transparency, and follow through from companies to address the environmental impacts of their enormous supply chains. The current model cannot be maintained,” said Cook.

Greenpeace said it is challenging the IT sector to take responsibility for its rapidly increasing footprint on the planet by:

• Shifting their supply chains to be renewably powered;

• Reducing the cycle of constant consumption of more minerals and other resources by designing long lasting products that use more recycled materials, and;

• Detox their products and their supply chain by finding alternatives to hazardous chemicals.

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