Greenpeace Says HP, Dell, Lenovo Backtrack On Promises

Dell, Lenovo and HP are three of the least environmentally friendly manufacturers of computers, according to a report released by environmental watchdog group Greenpeace.

Over the course of the past five months, Greenpeace found that all three of the companies backtracked on their commitments to eliminate vinyl plastic (PVC) and brominated flame retardants (BFRs) from their products by the end of 2009. PVC plastics and BFRs are two toxic culprits responsible for the growing glut of e-waste.

"Greenpeace's IT Climate Leadership Challenge calls on the IT industry to provide real solutions for the imminent threat of global warming. By turning climate change into a business opportunity and offering their top-line support for a strong climate deal, companies who take the lead in this challenge will see a massive increase in their market share," said Melanie Francis, Greenpeace International climate and energy campaigner.

Greenpeace's Guide To Greener Electronics first debuted in August 2006 and ranks the 17 top manufacturers of personal computers, mobile phones, TVs and game consoles. The scores are tabulated based on each individual company's policies on toxic chemicals, recycling and climate change.

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In the latest edition of the Guide To Greener Electronics, all three computer manufacturers failed to crack out of the bottom third of companies surveyed, with Dell in 13th place, Lenovo in 14th and HP second to last in 16th place.

According to Greenpeace, Dell has been losing points in the survey, tumbling from fifth place in March 2008 to 13th position in March 2009, because the company backtracked on its commitment to eliminate PVC and BFRs from all of its products by the end of 2009. The company also loses points because its claims of energy-efficient products don't add up.

"[Dell] needs to clarify what it understands by 'Energy Star compliant configurations.' PCs need to leave the factory with the most energy-efficient settings, which should not go out of ES compliance when consumers tweak power management settings," the report said.

For its part, Dell is still working to take an environmentally friendly approach to its products and manufacturing practices by participating in such programs as free consumer computer recycling and reducing carbon emissions. In fact, Dell's commitment to reducing global emissions may be one of the only reasons the company didn't rank even lower on the Greenpeace report.

"We remain very committed to proactively eliminating environmentally sensitive substances from our products, and we're working closely with our suppliers to eliminate these chemicals from our products," a spokesperson for Dell said. "This commitment is genuine, and we do deliver some BFR/PVC-reduced products today. However, as there are no viable alternatives to many of the components used in our products which include these chemicals, we've adjusted our timetable for eliminating them accordingly."

NEXT: HP, Lenovo Feel the Heat

Computer manufacturer HP dropped three spots to 16th place, accruing penalty points for backtracking on its commitment to eliminate PVC and BFR from its computing products by the end of 2009, according to Greenpeace.

"Although HP still communicates this time line on its Web site, in a call with Greenpeace in February 2009, the company admitted that it would be unable to meet its commitment. There is no new time line, which means in effect, no commitment," said the report.

Similar to Dell, HP believes it is continuing to move toward removing PVC and BFRs from it products, but cites a lack of available alternative manufacturing materials as the cause for not proceeding more rapidly.

"We are continuing to evaluate and implement alternative materials without BFRs as they become available in sufficient volumes," a spokesperson for HP said. "However, some BFR and PVC replacements have proven difficult to substitute due to the lacking performance in computing products. Due to the lack of acceptable alternatives in necessary volumes, HP will not be able to deliver all new computing products launched in 2009 that are 100 percent BFR/PVC free."

Instead, the company is making plans to release computing products that use less PVC and BFR than previous generations until those materials can be eliminated from production entirely. According to HP, this will remain a "top priority."

Lenovo ranked in the 14th position, ahead of HP, even though it will not meet the stated deadline of removing PVC and BFRs for its product line by the end of 2009. Instead, the computer manufacturer has pushed its deadline out to the end of 2010.

Lenovo scores relatively well on toxic chemical criteria, according to Greenpeace, and has recently put out a monitor free of BFRs and PVC. But it's just one monitor, which doesn't have a significant enough impact on the overall product line to move the company up in the standings.

Greenpeace also believes that Lenovo needs to "phase out of beryllium (including alloys and compounds), antimony and its compounds and all phthalates."

Lenovo didn't respond to request for comment.

The top five greenest companies in this edition of Greenpeace's Guide to Green Electronics are Nokia, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Philips and Sony. Microsoft, ranked 15th, and Nintendo, at 17th, joined Dell, Lenovo and HP in rounding out the bottom five.

Greenpeace is an independent global campaigning organization that acts to change attitudes and behavior, to protect and conserve the environment and to promote peace, the organization says. Greenpeace focuses on six criteria it identifies as key to its mission: energy revolution, defending oceans, protecting the world's forests, working for disarmament and peace, creating a toxic-free future and working toward sustainable agriculture.