Top holiday sellers could be top polluters

Environmental watchdog group Greenpeace believes this holiday's top-selling consumer electronics devices are produced by the least environmentally conscious companies.

Today, Greenpeace released its updated "Guide to Greener Electronics" which ranks the top 18 manufacturers of PCs, game consoles, phones, and TVs according to their policies regarding toxic chemicals and clean recycling. This holiday's top-selling consumer electronics devices are produced by the list's least environmentally conscious companies.

This is the sixth and most recent version of the list that Greenpeace hopes will encourage companies to clean up their products and recycle their waste. According to the group, it will be updated every three months, charting the companies' progress toward "greener electronics." The first version was published in August 2006.

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The best scores on the list are from Sony Ericsson and Samsung, both with 7.7 out of a possible 10 points. They are followed by Sony, Dell and Lenovo with 7.3, Toshiba, LG and Fujitsu-Siemens with 7, Nokia and HP with 6 points, Acer with 5.7, Panasonic and Motorola with 5 each, and Sharp with 4.7 points.

The list takes a sudden drop to the last three spots, filled by Microsoft with 2.7, Pillips with 2, and Nintendo with a 0. The bottom four slots are all new companies to the list, and coincidentally, Pricegrabber's report of the best selling consumer electronics so far this holiday season was topped by Nintendo's Wii and Microsoft's Zune.

In putting together the list, Greenpeace evaluates corporate environmental policy, and would like to see the following:

1.) A chemicals policy based upon the Precautionary Principle. Essentially, this Principle means that if there is a lack of scientific proof that something is harmful to the environment, the burden of proving it is safe lies with the company.

2.) Chemicals management. This refers to a supply chain system that can support the removal of materials that are potential pollutants.

3.) A timeline for phasing out all uses of Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), one of the most common plastics, recently shown in a Tufts University study to be a health hazard for those working in factories producing it.

4.) A timeline for phasing out all use of Brominated Flame Retardants (BFR). Some of these substances have been banned in the EU under the RoHS Directive, and are believed to be a serious health and environmental risk.

5.) Products on the market that lack both PVC and BFR.

6.) Producers who finance the end-of-life management of their own products.

7.) Voluntarily taking back and recycling products even where there are no laws requiring companies to do so.

8.) Clear information for consumers regarding takeback and recycling programs.

9.) Reports on the amount of electrical and electronic waste collected and recycled (WEEE).

The top-ranked companies have products on the market free from toxic chemicals and have takeback policies in place. However, both Samsung and Sony Ericsson lost points in their execution of these policies.

Companies are scored solely upon publicly-available information, so where Nintendo scored a zero out of ten -- it is the first company on these lists to have done so -- it does not necessarily mean it lacks these environmental policies, as they may just have not yet been made public.

Microsoft, however, makes many of its practices known. The company's timeline shoots for removal of toxic chemicals by 2011, but lacks a sufficient policy on takeback and recycling of obsolete goods.

The criteria for rankings are by no means legal responsibilities, and do not reflect the findings of the EPA. Sometimes, in fact, Greenpeace's allegations of compliance are quite far off. If anything, this list will encourage the newly included companies to publish better reports on their environmental standards.

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