India's high-tech giant Wipro (NYSE: WIT) earned the top spot as the world's greenest electronics company, because of its deep commitment to addressing climate change through the use and advocacy for renewable energy.
This is the first year Wipro was even included in the international ranking, produced for 18 years by Greenpeace. Last year's leader, Hewlett-Packard, slid to second place (it also got the #2 place in Newsweek's Green US ranking and leads in corporate sustainability reporting).
Nokia, Acer and Dell round out the top five among the 16 companies rated.
Each year, the Guide to Greener Electronics rates companies that produce mobile phones, tablet computers and PCs based on their commitment and progress on three environmental criteria: energy and climate, greener products and sustainable operations.
Companies are scored on policies and practices - not on specific products - to provide buyers with a snapshot of the sustainability of the biggest names in the industry.
The top 10 companies are:
Wipro scored top points for climate leadership. It committed to reduce GHG emissions 44% by 2015 (from 2008 levels) and 85% of those cuts will come from increased use of renewable energy. "Its lobbying for renewable energy policy in India exhibits the type of corporate advocacy leadership needed to drive policy change," says Greenpeace.
It also scored highest on the energy efficiency of its products, and got high marks for collecting/ recycling used electronics, and for phasing out hazardous materials, but lags on chemicals management, paper sourcing policy and advocacy. That pulled down its total score to 7.1 out of a possible 10.
HP, which got the top score for US companies, outperforms Wipro on sustainable operations, such as supply chain management. It scored "10" on paper procurement policies, and got high scores for policies related to sourcing conflict minerals. The only area it lags is in its handling of electronics waste, which it has just begun to address.
Apple dropped to sixth place because of lack of transparency on GHG emissions reporting and use of toxic chemicals, and lack of advocacy on clean energy.
After being at the bottom of the list for its industry in How Dirty is Your Data Center and not even rated in Greenpeace's Cool IT Leaderboard, Apple turned a new leaf at its new data center in North Carolina, which is powered by innovative energy efficiency techniques and large renewable energy systems.
In its analysis, A Clean Energy Road Map for Apple, Greenpeace congratulates Apple for big improvements in using clean energy, but the company still gets poor grades when compared with its industry peers, such as Dell, Google, Facebook and Akamai.
Taiwan-based Acer ranked as "most improved," moving up nine spots to No. 4 because of its commitment to cut GHG emissions 30% cut by 2015 (from a 2009 baseline) and because it's working with suppliers on a range of environmental issues, such as getting them to adopt more aggressive GHG reduction strategies, reducing hazardous substances and conflict minerals.
Greenpeace praises the industry for moving in the right direction, but as more people around the world gain access to these devices, the speed of collection isn't keeping pace with the rate of consumption, resulting in ever greater amounts of toxic e-waste.
Still to be seriously addressed are massive quantities of dirty energy embedded in their manufacturing and supply chains, much of it coming from East Asia.
"Remember," Greenpeace says, "the most sustainable devices are the ones you don't buy. Work to extend the life of your existing electronic gadgets, buy used products, and only purchase what you truly need."
Here how the companies ranked in last year's Greener Electronics guide.
Here's this year's report: