Mobile giant HTC linked to pollution of Lake Tai

Environmental groups say heavy metal pollution from suppliers to mobile phone manufacturer HTC is contaminating water in the Lake Tai basin, in south east China

IT manufacturers are dumping waste water contaminated with heavy metals into the Canhuangjing and Louxia rivers, tributaries of the Lake Tai Basin in south east China, according to a report from the well-respected Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE).

Nickel levels in waste water released by the Foxconn Group are 40 times higher than legally allowed, while copper levels in the river bottom at a Dingxin Electronics and Yuanyu Electronics waste water outlet were 80 times too high. Both firms are believed to supply the mobile phone manufacturer HTC.

Water pollution is a major concern for the Lake Tai Basin, with China spending billions of yuan trying to clean it up after decades of pollution have brought ecosystems to the brink.

The NGO Green Rivers, who worked on the report with the IPE, wrote to Foxconn and Dingxin last month requesting they accept environmental responsibility and issue a public statement. Both companies declined.

HTC has a poor environmental record when it comes to its supply chain. Between November 2011 and July 2013 environmental groups repeatedly attempted to engage HTC in a dialogue on environmental issues at possible suppliers. 

Of the 33 IT companies the IPE has opened dialogue with 32 – including Apple, Samsung and Canon – have responded to, or even acted on requests for better environmental supply chain management. HTC is the only one to refuse to respond to questions about pollution. 

“Brand names can do quite a lot to reduce environmental pollution from their suppliers,” said IPE director Ma Jun. “For big IT manufacturers the maximum 200,000 yuan fine isn’t much of a threat – they just care about orders. But losing orders because they pollute the environment could be fatal.”

Feng Can is an intern in chinadialogue’s Beijing office