The Greenpeace Guide to Greener Electronics Is In: How Did The Top 17 Tech Companies Shape Up?

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The Greenpeace report analysed the 17 leading tech brands in terms of their sustainability standards.

Greenpeace just released a report analysing the environmental impact of the world's leading tech brands. The result? Let's take a closer look.

Author Ana Galán Herranz, 11.14.17

Greenpeace just released a report analysing the environmental impact of the world’s leading tech brands. The result? Let’s take a closer look.

Look at your phone, how old is it? And your laptop? And most importantly, do you know how they were made? We all know that to produce our electronic devices, minerals have to be mined, in many cases in conflict zones. But what about the rest of the production and assembly process? Tech companies are creating billions of electronics and as the Greenpeace reports assets, their products are leaving a huge impact. Products with short life cycles have a seriously damaging impact on our planet.

Greenpeace has just released a report examining the extent to which the world’s top tech companies are committing to fight climate change, Greenpeace USA’s Guide to Greener Electronics. They’ve assessed them in the categories of transparency, performance, commitment and advocacy. According to them, Samsung, Amazon, Huawei, Asus and Xiaomi are among the companies with the worst grades. Fairphone and Apple with a B and a B- respectively, are the ones who look the best. 

“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,”

said Gary Cook, Senior IT Campaigner at Greenpeace USA, in a statement.

In other words, what the report is highlighting is that although these companies are at the cutting-edge of innovation, their processes are not. For example, the company’s energy resources could be renewable ones, they could use more recycled materials and also remove hazardous chemicals – all moves that could help decrease their greenhouse emissions.

Samsung Electronics – one of the other bigger tech companies, not only due to its role as a mobile phone manufacturer but also one of the main sellers of technology components – is another that has failed to make the shift to more sustainable production standards. It received a D for its minimal use of renewable energy while Apple, which is relying mainly on green energy sources, got an A-.

The Stumbling Block of Corporate Transparency

The issue of transparency was also a sticking point when it came to preparing the report. While three companies refused to talk with Greenpeace – Oppo, Vivo and Xiaomi – the NGO also faced the transparency problem when it came to seeking out data. Even for those companies that publish a CSR report, it often doesn’t include all the data about its performance and resource use. For example, Amazon hasn’t released any information on its energy use, GHG footprint or its products’ energy performance.

The aim of the Guide to Greener Electronics 2017 – which was last published five years ago in 2012 – is to point out the areas where tech companies need to improve to reduce not only e-waste but also to become more sustainable throughout their entire production and manufacturing chain.

In an ideal world, this move would then inspire others to do the same, as expressed in the executive summary of the report:

“Now is the time for the tech sector to channel its expertise into reinventing the way that electronic devices are made and used in society, to reverse the ever-increasing consumption of the planet’s finite resources and reliance on fossil fuels, creating a circular and renewably powered business model that other sectors can follow.”

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