Company responses regarding NGO report on pollution by IT firms' suppliers in China

Beginning in April 2010, a coalition of Chinese NGOs, led by Friends of Nature, Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, Green Beagle, has been raising concerns about pollution of China's water bodies with heavy metals, by suppliers to 29 international information technology (IT) brands.


Introduction

In April 2010 a coalition of Chinese NGOs, led by Friends of Nature, Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, Green Beagle, issued a report alleging that 29 IT brands used suppliers that dumped heavy metals into China's water bodies: “The IT Industry Has a Critical Duty to Prevent Heavy Metal Pollution” [PDF].

On 5 June 2010, the coalition issued an update [PDF], stating that of the 29 companies, 3 had submitted "insubstantial responses" and 8 companies had not responded to its concerns. Subsequently, on 18 June, the NGO coalition issued two announcements stating that it had received responses from two of the eight "non-responding" companies, IBM and Canon,and recommending the companies take further action.

On 30 June, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre contacted the 6 other companies that did not respond to the report (Apple, BYD, Ericsson, LG Electronics (part of LG Corp), Philips, Vodafone) and the 3 companies whose responses the NGO coalition regarded as “insubstantial” (Foxconn, Motorola, SingTel) and invited them to provide responses.  Subsequently, Ma Jun, Director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, submitted rejoinders to some of the companies; some of the companies followed with further comments.

On 11 August 2010, the coalition issued a follow up report:  "Green Choice Consumers Urge the IT Brands to Break Their Silence: Investigative Report on IT Industry Heavy Metals Pollution, Phase III". This report names 6 companies that "gave negative feedback in filling the gaps in their supply chain environmental management": Apple, Ericsson, LG Electronics (part of LG Corp), Nokia, Singapore Telecommunications (SingTel), Sony.  Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited these companies to respond.

The company responses, rejoinders and subsequent company statements with regard to both the update to the April report and the August report appear below.  (Note:  We will post here any further rejoinders and responses we receive.)

 


Latest report (11 Aug 2010)

"Green Choice Consumers Urge the IT Brands to Break Their Silence:  Investigative Report on IT Industry Heavy Metals Pollution, Phase III" [PDF], Friends of Nature, Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE), Green Beagle.

On 2 September, the NGOs sent a letter to each of the companies named in this report  -- Apple, Ericsson, LG Electronics (part of LG Corp), Nokia, SingTel, and Sony-- informing them of the report and requesting a dialogue with the company. The Resource Centre invited these six companies to respond to the report and the letters; Apple was the only company that did not send us a response. On 27 October IPE sent rejoinders to each of the companies.  As the rejoinders to Apple, LG Electronics (part of LG Corp) and SingTel expressed continued concern over these companies, the Resource Centre invited those three companies to provide further comments.  

The company responses to the 2 Sept letters (which contain links to those letters), IPE's rejoinders, and the further comments of the three brands appear below.

Company responses:

  • Apple did not respond - NGOs' 2 Sept letter to Apple [PDF]

    IPE rejoinder
    [PDF] (27 Oct):  "...Unfortunately, we have not heard anything from Apple Inc. We noticed to our disappointment that among all the I.T. brands that were invited to make a response, Apple was the only company that failed to respond. We would like to stress the seriousness of the behavior of Apple Inc.’s suppliers..."
    - Apple did not respond

  • Ericsson response [DOC]

    IPE rejoinder [PDF] (27 Oct): "...We appreciate your response to the Business and Human Rights Resource Center’s letter...We are glad to hear of Ericsson’s support for initiatives...We welcome the offer of engaging in pro-active dialogue. Could we propose a meeting between NGO representatives and Ericsson at our office?..."

  • LG Electronics response [DOC]

    IPE rejoinder [PDF] (27 Oct):"...LG stated: 'LGE plans to vigorously challenge such misleading claims with the help of the NGOs.' Could LG explain with the help of which NGO it has challenged or is challenging these 'misleading claims'?...[I]nstead of quickly denying that the polluting company in question is not a 'registered official LGE supplier', LG should clarify if this supplier has ever supplied any products or services to LG..." 

    LG Electronics further comment [DOC]  "...Regarding the issue with Changzhou Hongdu Electronics Co.,Ltd, we will investigate further...whether the company is able to uphold the local regulations and is willing to prevent such violations. After the investigation, we will decide either to consider the relationship or to support and educate the company to meet the local environmental regulations..."

  • Nokia response [DOC]

    IPE rejoinder [PDF] (27 Oct): "...From your letter we learn that Nokia has “replied to the IPE & other NGO´s questions about the companies which have been mentioned in the report, that none of them is our supplier.” However, our records show that Nokia has not initiated communications following the release of our ‘Phase Three Report’..."

    Nokia further comment
    [DOC]  "The particular incident concerning Lianjian in Suzhou was examined and that company is not our supplier. We have checked also other companies and allegations listed in the letter and those companies are not our suppliers either."

  • SingTel response [DOC]

    IPE rejoinder [PDF]:  (27 Oct):"...From your letter we learn that “SingTel has earlier met up with Narada to discuss the issues mentioned..In late April, 2010 Narada contacted...IPE...IPE made suggestions for improving the environmental management and Narada went so far as to suggest a meeting with NGOs; however since that date nothing has materialized from these initial enquiries. We hope Sing Tel could follow this case if it takes it seriously..."
    - SingTel declined to comment further

  • Sony response [DOC]

    IPE rejoinder [PDF] (27 Oct): "We appreciate your response to the Business and Human Rights Resource Center’s letter...We welcome your expressed willingness to further strengthen your supply chain management..."

 


Original report (Apr 2010)

“The IT Industry Has a Critical Duty to Prevent Heavy Metal Pollution” [PDF], coalition of Chinese NGOs, led by Friends of Nature, Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, Green Beagle

 


June 2010 update, company responses, further comments by NGOs & companies

Update [PDF] by Chinese NGO coalition, 5 Jun 2010
- details responses of 29 IT companies to April 2010 report; states that of the 29 companies, 8 companies had not responded to its concerns that the brands' suppliers pollute China's water bodies with heavy metals (Apple, BYD, Canon, Ericsson, LG Electronics (part of LG Corp), IBM, Phillips, Vodafone) and 3 had submitted "insubstantial responses" (Foxconn [part of Hon Hai], Motorola, SingTel)

Company responses:

  • Apple -Apple responded with this statement:  "We don't use these suppliers."

NGO coalition's announcements of IBM and Canon's responses:

-    "The 2010 Green Choice Consumer Action First Announcement; IBM Made Responses", [DOC] Friends of Nature, Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, Green Beagle, South China Nature Society, 18 Jun 2010

-    "2010 Green Choice Consumer Action 2nd Announcement, Canon’s Initial Response", [DOC] Friends of Nature, Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, Green Beagle, South China Nature Society, 18 Jun 2010.

In response, Canon sent us this statement on 13 July: "We will diligently work to carry out the measures described in the 'Canon’s Initial Response' document, making every effort to prevent the occurrence of environmental problems, including within the company’s supply chain."

 


Further information

- "Apple faces pollution storm over China suppliers", Financial Times, 19 Jan 2011

- "China pollutes to satisfy Western buyers", Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 28 Oct 2010

- "Cleaning up the IT industry’s supply chain in China, [Interview with] Ma Jun, water expert and environmental advocate", Asia Water Project, Jul 2010

- "Silence after suppliers of brand-name electronics companies found to pollute environment", Zhu Shanshan, Global Times, 27 Apr 2010

- “Global IT brands urged to be more accountable for pollution in China supply chain”, Jonathan Watts, Guardian (UK), 6 May 2010

- "Engaging IT's Elusive Giants", Ina Pozon, Asia Water Project Blog, June 2010

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