Insung Lee, program campaigner of Greenpeace, speaks during a press conference at Greenpeace office in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017. The environmental group issued a report on Tuesday giving technology titans like Samsung Electronics, Amazon and Huawei low marks for their environmental impact. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

INTERNATIONAL - Environmental group Greenpeace yesterday issued a report that gave technology titans, including Samsung Electronics, Amazon and Huawei, low marks for their impact on the environment.

The group’s “USA Guide to Greener Electronics” said many of the biggest technology companies failed to deliver on commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and were still reluctant to commit fully to renewable energy.

The report, which assessed 17 top global tech companies in three areas, also faulted many of them for failing to use more recycled materials in their products and their slow progress in phasing out the use of toxic materials.

“Tech companies claim to be at the forefront of innovation, but their supply chains are stuck in the Industrial Age,” Gary Cook, a campaigner at Greenpeace US, said in a statement. Since 2011, Greenpeace has urged global tech companies to transition to renewable energy, prompting some of them to switch to environmentally friendly power sources for their data centres.

The group is urging the industry to tackle energy issues in manufacturing and supply chains and design longer-lasting products to reduce electronics waste, and is urging an overall rethink of its “take-make-waste” business model. The report highlighted that tech companies’ manufacturing processes were not as environmentally friendly as their innovative images might suggest.

Greenhouse gas

Although energy consumption in the tech industry rose rapidly to fuel supply chains and manufacturing, as well as the data centres where social media, cloud computing and other applications run, so have greenhouse gas emissions. Samsung received a grade of D in its use of renewable energy, which accounted for just 1percent of its manufacturing process, compared with Apple, which relied on renewable energy for 96percent of its operation.

Samsung, the world’s largest maker of smartphones and the supplier of key components to many of the companies featured in the report, saw its greenhouse gas emissions rise 24percent in 2016 from two years ago. It also received low marks on its efforts to reduce and disclose hazardous chemicals at workplaces and to design long-lasting products.

Samsung and other companies mentioned in the report did not immediately respond to e-mails seeking comment. Chinese smartphone-makers Huawei, Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo scored below average in all categories and lacked transparency and commitment in renewable energy, the report said.

Amazon was the only US company that received the lowest mark, an F, in its overall environmental performance, along with the Chinese phone-makers. Greenpeace said Amazon was among the least transparent companies and did not report the greenhouse gas footprint of its operations.

Among the 17 companies, Amsterdam-based Fairphone and Apple were said to be doing better in various areas.

Renewable energy

Greenpeace urged the tech companies to use more renewable energy. It also urged the companies to remove hazardous chemicals and other materials from their products and workplaces and design longer-lasting devices to help reduce waste. If the tech industry does not change to renewable energy, the world will not be able to tackle climate change, said Greenpeace campaigner Lee Insung. “In the next three to five years, the use of renewable energy and how well the companies cope with climate change will determine their core competitiveness,” Lee said. 

- AP