Sony and Sony Ericsson are the 'greenest' consumer electronics manufacturers, according to the latest Greenpeace Guide to Greener Electronics, although most companies saw their scores drop due to a new ranking system based on wider criteria.
"A lot of companies in the industry are taking steps towards greener electronics, but it's about time we raised the bar and challenged the companies to race towards a greener industry," said Omer Elnaiem, a Greenpeace spokesman.
Until now, Greenpeace has ranked companies on issues related to the use of hazardous chemicals in their products and the responsibility they take, through take-back and recycling schemes, for obsolete products. The new list widens the focus beyond the products themselves and to encompass corporate policies and practices toward climate change and energy issues.
Specifically, Greenpeace is looking at whether companies show political support for global mandatory cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, whether they disclose greenhouse gas emissions and whether they commit to an absolute reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from their operations.
The amount of renewable energy used by a company is also reflected in the ranking, as is the energy efficiency of new products.
Sony Ericsson, which shared first place overall with Sony, became the first company to score almost top marks in the chemical sector, having removed PVC, antimony, beryllium and phthalates from its products. It missed a perfect score because of "unreasonably high threshold limits for brominated flame retardants in products that are allegedly BFR-free."
It also scored well on energy efficiency, but scored badly on other issues such as recycling. Greenpeace labelled its recycling rate of between 1 and 13 percent as "pitiful".
Sony scored lower on the chemicals criteria because it has fewer models on sale that are free of the substances targeted by Greenpeace. It did relatively well on voluntary recycling (its recycling rate on old TVs and PCs is 53 percent) and scored points for disclosing externally verified greenhouse gas emissions for more than 200 sites.
Nokia was ranked third, and once again would have come first were it not for inconsistencies in its product take-back and recycling programme. Despite having a programme in place, it is not working well in India. Greenpeace previously found problems in India, the Philippines, Thailand, Argentina and Russia. The programme is now working well in the latter four countries, but the one-point penalty remains because of continuing problems in India.
Samsung and Toshiba, which led the previous edition of the guide, fell due to low scores in the new energy criteria. Samsung discloses emissions from its operations in South Korea, but none of the other information requested by Greenpeace. Toshiba ranked slightly better on energy due to its commitment to an absolute reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
As with previous surveys, companies don't score any points if they don't disclose the information Greenpeace requests - the guide is as much about promoting transparency in reporting as it is about encouraging greener products.
It's partly for this reason that game maker Nintendo came in last place again. The company scored just 0.8 points out of a possible 10, and was criticised for not providing any information on issues such as its energy use, the energy efficiency of products, the amount of electronic waste it recycles and the amount of plastic recycled across all its product lines.
In a report published earlier this year, Greenpeace found game consoles from Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft all contained toxic or undesirable chemicals such as beryllium, PVC, phthalates and bromine.
The Greenpeace Guide to Greener Electronics was first published in August 2006. It ranks the 18 biggest makers of PCs, mobile phones, TVs and game consoles.