Top IT firms turn eyes to dirty supply chain

Thirty four Chinese environmental protection organizations publicly announced at the June 5 World Environment Day that Apple, LG and other IT firms were still refusing to respond to a report about heavy metal pollution in the IT industry, which had been published a couple of days earlier. Now consumers are waiting for the companies to speak, and for the first time Canon and IBM have given rather positive responses.

On June 11, Canon spoke for the first time, saying that the four illegal companies mentioned in the letter are the “trade target of its top suppliers” and that "via the top suppliers, they have already asked the relative companies to carry out improvements.” Environmental organizations further suggested Canon push the illegal suppliers to publish a report for the public, and to establish a supply chain database.

On June 9, IBM gave its first response through its public relations department, saying it would investigate its supply chain’s pollution problems. However, it denied the reference to "two" polluting factories as its suppliers, mentioned in the report. In the reply letter, environmental protection organizations redressed the quantity of polluting companies and asked IBM to confirm whether or not the aforementioned polluting companies are and, in the last few years, have been its suppliers. At the same time, they expressed their hopes of being able to directly communicate with IBM. On June 12, IBM fulfilled their wish, proposing direct dialogue. Moreover, the company said it would carry out deeper investigations into the whole supply chain system according to a list of polluting industries published by the environmental protection organizations, and promptly communicate the results.

Back in mid-April 2010, Friends of Nature, the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, the Darwin Natural Knowledge Society and others among the group of 34 environmental protection organizations, questioned the environmental pollution problems of suppliers to IBM, Canon and 29 other IT companies, with a letter to their chief executives. As of June 5, Apple, LG and 8 other companies were still silent, while the majority of the other IT companies had given a response. Moreover, some of them have already begun to take active measures to complete the environmental management of supply chains. On the basis of the notable divergence in the IT response, many environmental protection organizations such as the Hunan Natural Association, Nanjing "Green Stones", Green university forum, Lanzhou University Community and Biodiversity Protection Research Centre proposed that the consumers put their expectations and requests to the IT companies that still refuse to answer, and urge the strengthening of supply chain management.

According to incomplete statistics, more than 200 university students sent letters to Apple, Canon, IBM, LG and others to express their concerns. Among those letters, more than 50 were addressed to IBM, and more than 60 to Canon.

By June 18, environmental protection organizations were yet to receive any further results from IBM or Canon. Darwin Natural Knowledge Society’s director Ping Yongfeng showed that environmental protection organizations, apart from appreciating the positive attitude of those companies that promptly responded, are still keeping their attention focused, hoping that the consumers will be able to continue to adopt green alternatives, as well as supervise and urge relevant firms to honor their "green promises". Furthermore, with regards to the unbroken silence of Apple, LG and 6 other companies, Ping Yongfeng is convinced that the voice of the consumers will spur them on to make important changes.