Green or Greenwash? 2008’s Leading Businesses and Their Eco (Or Not) Initiatives

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By itzafineday via Flickr
By itzafineday via Flickr

Everybody’s going green these days – it only makes sense for the business world to join in.  But how many of their green initiatives are started with dollar signs in mind and which businesses are actually doing their part to improve the planet?

Wally World’s Green Super Centers

Experimental Supercenter McKinney, TX. Photo by Bergey Windpower
Experimental Supercenter McKinney, TX. Photo by Bergey Windpower

What would our country be without these massive, Mom ‘n Pop crushing mega-stores?  Where would we go to buy the toxic-laden products we need to survive?

While I’m not at all a fan of Walmart – CEO Lee Scott made quite a few green promises back in 2005 that could have huge benefits for the environment if he follows through (read the PDF transcript.)  Within 3 years, Scott promised to increase fleet efficiency by 25%; reduce solid waste by 25%; and eliminate PVC packaging on Walmart brands.  He also vowed to open another experimental store, this time at least 25% more efficient with 30% less emissions, within 4 years.

Three years have passed and we’re a third of the way through the 4th – how has Walmart done with their green intentions?  Recycled polyester, organic cotton, and Energy Star appliances have found their way onto Walmart’s shelves; Kids Connection toys by Walmart have drastically reduced packaging and the Walmart Packaging Scorecard is encouraging suppliers to reduce their waste as well; fleet efficiency has improved with better routes and more efficient loading practices and Walmart is currently testing hybrid trucks within their fleets to increase efficiency further.

Overall, it looks like our favorite supplier of Chinese imports may very well be going green.  Read more about Walmart’s green news.  Why has Walmart gone green?  According to the Environmental Leader, it’s not about the environment – it’s about saving money.

A Greener Apple

By Brianfit via Flickr. GreenMyApple campaign by GreenPeace
By Brianfit via Flickr. GreenMyApple campaign by GreenPeace

Apple and company CEO Steve Jobs have spent plenty of time in the GreenPeace spotlight in the past few years, leading to some tremendous (and applaudable) greener Apple promises in May, 2007.  More recently Apple has claimed to be a leader in green electronics, boasting about the lack of Mercury, BFR, and arsenic in their latest products.

Is the greener Apple nothing but greenwash?  When it comes to energy efficiency and eco-friendly packaging, Apple has it covered – but living up to green promises doesn’t appear to be part of the green Apple deal.  Jobs vowed to eliminate the use of PVC and BFR in their computers by the end of 2008.  Macworld 2009 announced a new MacBook Pro that still contains the same level of toxins as the greener models introduced in 2008.

Green Gas

LEED certified BP in L.A. Photo by omar omar
LEED certified BP in L.A. Photo by omar omar

BP has made tremendous progress with their Beyond Petroleum image, even boasting the first LEED certified gas station if there should really be such a thing.  BP has invested billions into biofuel research; they’ve built windfarms in Colorado, Texas, and Asia.

Unfortunately, all the wonderful investments BP has made in renewable energy is mere pocket change compared to the massive amounts of money the company has put into oil and gas.   The green initiatives of BP are so greenwashed, the company earned GreenPeace’s Emerald Paintbrush Award for the worst greenwash of 2008.

Sony Ericsson Has a GreenHeart

By Lady AnnDerground
By Lady AnnDerground

Sony Ericsson has made decent progress in the green business world.  The mobile phone company has eliminated the use of BFR and PVC, along with ridding their phones from at least 3 toxic chemicals.  Topping the GreenPeace Greener Electronics Report for early 2008 (PDF), Sony Ericsson has done well with their promises and are making great progress in creating a cell phone that can truly be called green.

The big downfall for Sony Ericsson has been the lack of an effective electronics recycling program.  The company took responsibility and launched their environmental warranty in Sept, 2008 – at least 500 recycling drop-off points are already available in 7 different countries.

Is Nokia the Greenest?

By Intel CES 2008 via Flickr
By Intel CES 2008 via Flickr

Nokia has gained the first place spot in both the Sept. and Nov, 2008 editions of the GreenPeace report, overtaking Sony Ericsson’s position.  Nokia has eliminated PVC but has still not produced a BFR-free phone and continues to use a number of hazardous chemicals, although promises to eliminate these as well sometime this year.

The crowning green achievement that has pushed Nokia ahead of Sony Ericsson is their comprehensive recycling and voluntary take-back program -putting Ericsson’s new campaign to shame with about 10 times the number of collection points.  Nokia also sources 25% of their energy from renewable sources and excels in product energy efficiency.  Like Sony Ericsson, however, Nokia only has a concept for a green cell phone.

Dell Invests in Green

Dell battery fire 2006. By Stewart via Flickr
Dell battery fire 2006. By Stewart via Flickr

Dell has been doing quite a bit of greenwash finger-pointing lately, particularly at their top competitors HP and Apple.  Dell managed to barely score higher than both of the other ‘green’ computer manufacturers on the most recent GreenPeace report, but still came in at just 12th place.  Dell has produced a halogen-free computer and has done exceptionally well with energy efficiency, but they’ve withdrawn their promise to eliminate PVC and BFR this year.

Is Dell the one that’s all (green)washed out?  The company claims to have met their goal to be carbon neutral in 2008 – their Round Rock, TX headquarters operates completely on renewable energy and Dell invests billions into new green technology research.  The rest of their emissions are offset by planting trees – I guess it’s a start!

Honest HP

screen-capture-1

It’s only fair to include HP in our green or greenwash lineup.  This company has been helping us “move toward sustainable computing since the early ’90s.”  Unfortunately, they seem to be lagging behind when it comes to producing a chemical-free product – HP promises to produce a PVC and BFR-free computer sometime this year though.

HP has been known to go a bit overboard with cardboard packaging – but they score mega points with their eco-packaging attempts,  like the innovative notebook in a bag designed for Walmart.  HP could do better with their e-waste, but they’re the first electronics company to disclose emissions information on their suppliers – as well as the first company to display the SmartWay logo for environmentally-friendly transport.

Is HP as greenwashed as their competitors?  While appearing to be a few steps behind in most areas, HP seems to be making an honest effort to do their part.  I guess we’ll for a BFR and PVC-free HP before deciding!

3 thoughts on “Green or Greenwash? 2008’s Leading Businesses and Their Eco (Or Not) Initiatives”

  1. Of course businesses should look at the costs involved in any green initiative. The whole point of business is to make money and anything they implement should help reduce the bottom line in some way. If they are going to change their process to be more green, but it'll cost more, then they'll have to cut somewhere, like laying off workers. I don't know why companies that are looking to saving money while implementing green changes to their operation is being painted as a bad thing.

    As far as the main point of the article, I'm sure there a plenty of companies who are greenwashing. It seems like there are thousands of green certifications out there and many companies are just jumping on the band wagon without having done much of anything. As consumers, we play an important role in making sure e-waste, packing materials, and Chinese made products are making it into the recycling stream or being repaired instead of replaced. It's not just about the businesses, it's about everyone.

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