Within the last week, Green SupplyLine has posted a couple of news items that have potentially disturbing implications for the electronics industry's ability to responsibly manage our planet's future.
Here's one data point: In a survey conducted by the WSP Group, over 100 electronics manufacturers from Hong Kong, Mainland China, and Taiwan were asked what their companies' objectives were for reducing carbon emissions. Ninety two percent reported they had no objective for carbon emissions reductions. Many of the respondents had never even heard the term carbon emissions.
A second data point: In an annual CSR study conducted by the Roberts Environmental Center at Claremont McKenna College, one Taiwanese company was near the bottom of the list in terms of its social and environmental initiatives. That company was Hon Hai Precision Industries, better known as Foxconn, the largest contract manufacturer in the world. Foxconn has a customer list that's a veritable who's who of the top electronics OEMs.
Here's a third data point: China is now the world's leading producer of greenhouse gas emissions. Some studies say it passed the US in 2006 and others put the date at 2008. Regardless, the US's GHG emissions, while still huge, shows relatively no growth while China's emissions show steady growth up and to right.
The preponderance of scientific data tells us that we are already above the planet's upper limit for the long-term 'safe' level of CO2 in our planet's atmosphere - currently about 385 parts per million, which is 35 ppm about where it should be. Couple that with the forecast that the world's population is going to increase by 50 percent in the next 40 years or so, then I'd argue we are heading in the wrong direction fast. Some scientists warn we may hit 500 ppm. Not a pleasant thought.
TSo in that context, the fact that many of the WSP survey respondents had never heard the term 'carbon emissions' is just frightening.
Isn't it about time we start a dialogue and encourage efforts by our trading partners on the other side of the planet - our supply chain 'partners' - to start learning and thinking about how to limit their GHG emissions?
We in the West are the ones buying most of the stuff these companies produce. But economists would argue we in the West are not paying anything near the true cost of these gadgets. We are excluding "externalities" such as the cost of the pollution resulting from the manufacture and transport of these products.
If you are a manager at a Western company and you shuttle across the Pacific to your partner's factories in Shenzhen or Suzhou or wherever, then on your next 18-hour flight take a few minutes to think about how to broach the subject of carbon emissions with your Chinese colleagues.
When you sit down with them, ask about their own corporate environmental initiatives - and share the initiatives your company has put in place. And when you have tea with the local government officials query them about their vision for preserving the local environment. Make them know that the quality of the environment is an issue for your company.
Start the dialogue. It's time.