|Image courtesy of carnero.cc via Creative Commons|
There is no perfectly humane electronic product, but when it comes to purchasing them, we citizens can to look to the practices and products of the companies themselves to find choices that do more good and less harm. One important tool that can help is Greenpeace's latest Guide to Greener Electronics. Since 2006 Greenpeace has been ranking electronics companies "on policies and practices to reduce their impact on the climate, produce greener products, and make their operations more sustainable."
Unfortunately, the electronics industry has a long way to go before it can be truly healthy, just, and sustainable, but several companies have been stepping up their efforts to be greener. This year an Indian company, Wipro, tops the list, with a score of 7.1 out of 10. HP ranks second with a score of 5.7 out of 10. The report looks at 13 criteria over three categories: Energy and Climate, Greener Products, and Sustainable Operations.
The guide does have it limitations, and it doesn't include criteria such as how a manufacturer's workers are treated, but for those of us looking for additional information on which companies are striving for greener practices and products, it's quite useful.
Another helpful tool for guiding us in gauging the MOGO (most good) practices of electronics companies comes from The Enough Project. Their 2012 Conflict Minerals Company Rankings grades companies "on their efforts toward using and investing in conflict-free minerals in their products."
Conflict minerals are involved in a great deal of war, violence, environmental destruction, and human and animal suffering. (Mother Jones recently published a story about the impact of rare earth elements in southeast Asia.) According to the guide, the best companies in their report "have taken proactive steps to trace and audit their supply chains, pushed for some aspects of legislation, exercised leadership in industry-wide efforts, and started to help Congo develop a clean trade. But they can still dig deeper in their supply chains and outreach." Out of the 24 companies ranked, this year's top companies are Intel and HP, while Nintendo and HTC scrape the bottom. The report also includes comments and justifications from the companies in question.
Since companies are always tweaking their practices and products, they tend to move up and down in rankings. Be sure to check out the next editions of these guides to see which companies have made positive progress...or taken steps backward.
And until companies commit to practices and products that do the most good and least harm, we can search for other resources to help us buy, (re)use, and dispose of these products properly, and work toward creating more restorative, just, and sustainable systems for our products.
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