I’ve been mulling Greenpeace’s “Guide to Greener Electronics” since its release yesterday, especially its ranking of Nintendo, who scores a zero out of a possible ten. On the one hand I appreciate their attempts to hold electronics companies to high environmental standards; on the other, it seems that they may be making an example out of a popular company by holding them to arbitrary standards, much like they did earlier this year with Apple and the iPhone.
Nintendo’s main sin seems to be not a lack of environmental responsibility, but a lack of information about their policies. The PDF that details Nintendo’s failings links repeatedly to this FAQ page on Nintendo’s site, where they answer “What does Nintendo do to help protect the environment?”. (Examples: “We limit our use of colored paper”; “We require that manufacturers not use any banned substances (such as lead, mercury, etc.) in components, nor use them in the manufacturing process for any components used inside of our products.”)
That second claim by Nintendo is pretty broad, but also clear: they say they aren’t using banned substances. And I’ll agree that they should be publicly listing the standards to which they are adhering and a list of the specific chemicals they aren’t using, as requested by Greenpeace. But Greenpeace’s decision to label Nintendo’s “Chemicals Management” score as “Bad,” giving no points on their scale, instead of “Partially Bad,” seems to be an attempt to single out a popular company to better publicize their report as a whole. Public shaming is a useful tool, but not at the expense of fairness.
I remain genuinely conflicted. Should Greenpeace have given Nintendo a chance to address their accountability issues before issuing the report? Does Greenpeace deserve credit as a watchdog when they seem willing to forgo evenhandedness for dramatic gesture? Or does the end justify the means?
How the companies line up [Greenpeace.org]