As Berlin prepares to host Europe’s biggest consumer technology show on Friday, the IFA 2014, Greenpeace has released a new report measuring the tech giants progress towards greening the gadgets on display there.
Apple is leading the consumer electronics sector in addressing its environmental footprint, ahead of rivals Samsung, who are failing to match Apple’s leadership.
The Greenpeace International report, Green Gadgets: Designing the future evaluates the progress and future challenges for 16 leading consumer electronics companies on the elimination of hazardous chemicals, reducing their energy footprint and building sustainable supply chains.
Greenpeace UK’s head of IT, Andrew Hatton said: “Apple has shown us a glimpse of a greener future, leading the sector on toxic-free products and starting to address the huge environmental footprint of electronics manufacturing. But the industry still has a long road ahead of it before they’re giving customers the level of efficiency and sustainability they are asking for.”
More than 50% of the mobile phone market, represented by Samsung, Apple and Nokia, is now free from the worst hazardous substances: Polyvinylchloride (PVC) and Brominated flame retardants (BFRs). However, Apple remains the only company to have eliminated the use of these substances in all its products and recently announced promising further steps on chemical elimination in production.
Unfortunately, the report reveals that Samsung, the world’s biggest electronics company, has failed to meet its elimination goals for products beyond mobiles, joining Dell in backtracking on previous public phase out commitments. Meanwhile, new players in the tablet and mobile markets continue to lag behind: Microsoft have dropped their previous phase-out commitment, and rival Amazon is failing to provide any information to the public.
The report identifies supply chain transparency and the elimination of all hazardous chemicals from across the supply chain as key next steps for the industry to Detox. Other sectors, such as textiles, have shown what is possible, offering a credible and applicable model for electronics companies to follow. 20 global textile companies have now committed to eliminating all hazardous chemicals by 2020 and many are implementing changes throughout the supply chain from the products to manufacturing hubs like China.
The findings reveal that overall, electronics companies are failing to address their growing energy footprint. The manufacturing of phones, laptops and other devices requires a huge amount of energy and is concentrated in East Asia where coal dominates energy production. Some companies, like Lenovo and Huawei, are setting a positive example with small solar installations on factories, while Apple is planning the first 100% renewable energy factory to make iPhone screens. However, only with ambitious targets to expand renewable energy use in supply chains will reduce the carbon footprint of our gadgets.
In 2014 sales of the most popular consumer electronics are predicted to reach 2.5 billion products. Such rapid growth has multiplied the industry’s environmental impact and raised crucial questions around the sustainability of a prevailing business model that promotes ever-increasing consumption. The report highlights this as an essential element for the industry to address in order to meet the urgent and growing environmental crisis.
“The innovative electronics industry is perfectly placed to reimagine their manufacturing and marketing processes. They’re designing our future, and we need that future to be a lot cleaner and greener than where we are now,” added Hatton.