Consumer electronic brands sustainability reporting remains 'murky'

Electronic brands vary widely when it comes to sustainable performance with 75% of the top 20 brands guilty of some degree of 'greenwashing' according to new research.

The majority of brands ranked in the report received a D‐label, meaning that they met less than 35% of the sustainability performance criteria

The majority of brands ranked in the report received a D‐label, meaning that they met less than 35% of the sustainability performance criteria

An updated sustainability ranking released by Rank a Brand in cooperation with Friends of the Earth Netherlands has criticised many of these brands for not reporting clearly enough on their sustainability commitments.

The lack of data, it suggests, is concerning given the significant environmental and social impacts of the global consumer electronics industry. These impacts range from considerable climate footprints through high use of hazardous chemicals to insufficient product life cycles and conflict minerals.

The majority of brands ranked in the report received a D‐label, meaning that they met less than 35% of the sustainability performance criteria. Sony, HP, Samsung, Philips, Blackberry, Dell, Toshiba, Lenovo and Motorola were all included in the category and are still far away from demonstrating good performance, according to the study.

Faring even worse with an E-label were Microsoft, HTC, LG, Asus and Nintendo - these were considered to have hardly started on their journey towards sustainability.

Supply chain management

On a more positive note, Apple and Nokia were judged progressive - each received a C-label for implementing several credible environmental measures and achieving some good early results. Only last week Apple issued its first ever conflict minerals report, detailing a comprehensive breakdown of where it sources its key raw materials from, and demonstrated that the majority of its suppliers were conflict-free.

The brand considered most progressive was Fairphone, scoring a B-label. According to the research, it reports most comprehensively on sustainability, providing good transparency, and its measures on environmental protection and establishing fair labour conditions in its supply chain were felt to be promising.

On climate protection, all brands were considered to have implemented credible climate policy measures, with 50% reducing their total GHG footprint by at least 10% in the past five years.

Interestingly despite being given a D-label, Lenovo seems to be the brand that is investing most in durability, for example by providing spare parts, whereas for other brands, planned obsolescence appears to remain the guiding business strategy.

Maxine Perella


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