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Hewlett-Packard, Apple in the Middle of the Pack for ‘Green’ Corporate Citizenship

June 25, 2008

By John Boudreau, San Jose Mercury News, Calif.

Jun. 25–In its latest survey of practices among makers of electronic gadgets, Greenpeace has raised the bar of what the environmental group believes is required for “green” corporate citizenship.

The analysis of the products and procedures of 18 major electronics manufacturers, released today, ranked two Silicon Valley giants — Hewlett-Packard and Apple — in the middle of the pack. Handset maker Sony Ericsson topped the list, while video game company Nintendo finished last.

Greenpeace and other environmental groups have long pressured electronics companies to eliminate toxic substances from products and develop recycling programs to ease the impact of discarded devices on the planet. For the first time, though, the group is calling on corporations to lend their political lobbying muscle to promote global mandatory cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

“It’s not enough any more for companies to say they are for these things,” said Greenpeace spokesman Daniel Kessler. “We want them to be advocates for them. We need Main Street and Wall Street and, in this case, Silicon Valley, to advocate for change.”

Greenpeace also wants companies to focus beyond product energy efficiency and examine how much environmental damage is caused by their world-wide operations. The information and communications technology sector is responsible for 2 percent of emissions, equal to the aviation industry, the group said.

In its eighth quarterly Guide to Greener Electronics, Greenpeace

gave HP, tied for ninth with with Motorola, and Apple, ranked tenth, thumbs up for some chemical and e-waste policies.

The report credits HP for setting a goal to reduce emissions at its global facilities to 16 percent below 2005 levels by 2010. But it criticizes the Palo Alto-based company for not providing enough data on the use of renewable energy and not setting a time table to phase out certain chemicals. And it dinged HP for not having a more aggressive take-back recycling program.

In a statement, Pierre Delforge, HP’s manager of energy and climate strategy, said the company is working on numerous fronts to confront climate change.

“Our strategy includes reducing the energy use in HP-owned operations, reducing the carbon footprint of our products and services, developing products and services that will reduce the footprint of the rest of the economy, and advocating for effective public policy to enable the transformation of the economy to low-carbon,” he said. “HP takes its responsibilities to the environment very seriously.”

Greenpeace said Apple, along with Sony Ericsson, was a standout in energy efficiency. Kessler credited the company’s efforts to eliminate arsenic, mercury, polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, a type of plastic used in computer parts and cables, and brominated flame retardants, or BFRs from its products.

“Apple seems to be on the upswing,” said Kessler, whose organization gave the Cupertino company its worst rating in December, 2006. “But they are not where we need them to be.”

Greenpeace criticized the company for not setting a timeline for reducing other chemicals and for not having a more global take-back recycling program. It also marked it down for not providing information about its efforts to reduce pollution caused by facility operations and the amount of renewable energy used.

On its Web site, Apple devotes a page to its free U.S. recycling program, which includes 10 percent off new iPods with the purchase of a new one.

Chief Executive Steve Jobs also gives a detailed defense of the company’s environmental efforts in a letter to consumers. “Apple is already a leader in innovation and engineering, and we are applying these same talents to become an environmental leader,” he said.

Microsoft scored next to last because its Xbox 360 game console contains PVCs and BFRs, though the company has said it will eliminate them in 2010.

“Microsoft is committed to environmental sustainability and has many programs and policies in place to lessen our footprint,” a company spokesperson said in a statement. “In our consumer electronics business, we comply with and exceed all environmental guidelines and regulations. We are committed to making ongoing progress on environmental issues.”

Nintendo “scored zero on all e-waste criteria,” the report said.

The full report is available at www.greenpeace.org.

Contact John Boudreau at jboudreau@mercurynews.com or (408) 278-3496.

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Copyright (c) 2008, San Jose Mercury News, Calif.

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