Electronics and Environment Roundup

Submitted by: Phil Riebel 02/01/2013

A few stories and comments from around the Internet on the impact of “technology” on the environment, and what some companies are doing about it.

January 28 2013

by Richard Romano

A few stories and comments from around the Internet on the impact of “technology” on the environment, and what some companies are doing about it.

Over at GreenBiz, a good interview with Darren Beck, Manager of Corporate Responsibility at Sprint. Sprint has been one of the leading telecom companies—if not the leading telecom company—in addressing the sustainability issues unique to that industry. Sprint’s corporate sustainability initiative addresses thing like carbon reduction, handset buy-backs, green devices, recycling and re-use, and effective metrics for measuring all these things.

With 135 million cell phones thrown away each year, there’s a lot of work to do. Sprint has set a precedent by being the first telecom company to set the ambitious long-term goal of recovering 9 mobile devices for every 10 that they sell by 2017. In 2012 their recycling rate was 45 percent so they are half way there.

Something that certainly helps is Sprint’s buy back program that offers up to $300 of instant credit for any eligible device at their over 3,500 retail stores. Sprint is the first major US carrier to do so.

Of particular interest is the company’s pursuit of sustainability standards for mobile devices. Not that we need a slew of new eco-labels, but Sprint has been working with UL Environment in that area.

One of the driving factors behind all of Sprint’s endeavors is the top-down approach to sustainability. Anyway, it’s a good lesson in corporate sustainability initiatives. Read and listen here.

Over at Environmental Leader, a post about Apple’s recent Supplier Responsibility Progress Report which found, among other things, that “Nearly half of the 55 Apple suppliers that underwent a focused environmental audit last year violated the company’s standards and were cited in the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs pollution database.”

To its credit:

Apple also has made a commitment to only use conflict-free minerals. The tech company has mapped its supply chain for conflict minerals and actively surveys suppliers to confirm their smelter sources. As of December 2012, Apple had identified 211 smelters and refiners from which its suppliers source tin, tantalum, tungsten or gold.

Meanwhile, over at the Sustainable Business Forum, Kirstie Hendrich discusses the implication of an infographic that shows the impact of technology (i.e., smartphones, the Internet, etc.) on the environment. At the risk of sounding like a broken MP3 file (or broken record, or whatever technology you use to listen to music), in a post-#Paperless2013 world, we do need to seriously consider the impact of our love of technology on the planet. This is not a new discussion, just as “technology” is nothing new (print was a new technology once upon a time, after all), but it’s one that we need to keep having.