Greenpeace pressures Dell to create less toxic products 2006-2012

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Timing
Time Period:  
March 2006
2006
to
March 2012
2012
Location and Goals
Country: 
United States
Country: 
India
Country: 
Netherlands
Country: 
Denmark
Location City/State/Province: 
Round Rock, Texas
Location Description: 
Protests took place in several cities across the world, but centered at Dell's headquarters in Round Rock Texas, in the Austin metropolitan area
Goals: 
Greenpeace aimed to have Dell outline the company's plan to rid its products of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and brominated flame retardants (BFRs) by 2011. Greenpeace also asked that Dell take a stand and lobby for the ban of PVC and BFRs in a revision of the European Union's RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances in Electronics) Directive.
 

Environmentalists and human rights activists have long been concerned about the use of toxic chemicals and compounds in electronic equipment. Companies often use compounds such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and brominated flame retardants (BFRs) in their electronic equipment to make them safer for the user, but they are very toxic materials that cause human health and environmental issues in areas the electronics are disposed of.

Greenpeace and other environmental groups insist that electronics companies need to be responsible for the entire lifetime of their products, from cradle to grave. By taking out toxic materials such as PVC and BFRs, they make recycling their products significantly easier and safer.

In 2005 Greenpeace started their “Toxic Tech” campaign to “call for real environmental leadership from the electronics industry” and in 2006, Greenpeace published its first Guide to Greener Electronics. The guide has been published every year since and ranks electronics companies on their efforts to reduce emissions of greenhouse gasses, eliminate hazardous substances, take back and recycle their own products, and stop the use of unsustainable materials in their products and packaging.

Amid this public pressure and pressure from peer companies in the electronics industry, Dell was one of the first companies to make a commitment to phase out PVC and BFRs by the end of 2009.

When Dell backtracked on its commitment in November of 2008 by removing reference its timeline altogether, Greenpeace USA started to target Dell to hold the company accountable to its commitments to less toxic products. Greenpeace asked concerned people to send emails to Dell asking them to remove PVC and BFRs from their products.

This email and virtual campaign continued in parallel with publicity from Greenpeace about Dell’s rankings in comparison to other technology companies. An international protest in 2010 continued this bad press for Dell.

In March 2010, Greenpeace activists protested outside Dell company buildings in Copenhagen, Denmark, Amsterdam, Netherlands, and Bangalore, India. The protests and banner hangs were supposed to coincide with the end of meetings about environmental sustainability lead by Michael Dell, the company’s CEO, but Dell had postponed these talks. The banner drops and protests continued, however.

On 27 May 2010, Greenpeace climbers scaled the company’s global headquarters in Round Rock, Texas and hung a banner off the building that said, “Michael, What the Dell? Design Out Toxics.” In conjunction with this protest, Greenpeace ran TV ads in Austin, Texas that explained Dell’s backtracking on its commitments and asked the residents to call the CEO to ask that the company design products without toxic products.

Michelle Mosmeyer, a staff person for Dell responded to Greenpeace’s protest in an email statement saying that the company is “committed to integrating the most environmentally preferable materials into our products, and we’re working closely with our suppliers to accomplish this.”

In 20110, between the end of May and the beginning of June, over 12,500 people sent protest emails to Dell’s CEO, asking him to make a plan to remove toxic compounds from Dell’s products. By 2011, concerned people had sent over 40,000 protest emails to Dell.

In March 2012, Greenpeace released a detailed report on Dell’s progress towards eliminating PVC and BFRs from their products. While Dell had released some BFR/PVC-free offerings of products, they had failed to meet their deadline of removing BFRs and PVC from all of their products, and still failed to publish a reasonable timeline for doing so.

Research Notes
Sources: 
Environmental Leader. Greenpeace Scales Dell Headquarters, Releases Greener Electronics Guide. 27 May 2010. http://www.environmentalleader.com/2010/05/27/greenpeace-scales-dell-headquarters-releases-greener-electronics-guide/

Greenpeace International. Dell targeted for breaking promise on toxic chemicals. 29 March 2010. http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/features/dell-breaking-promise-290310/

Greenpeace International. Dell’s Commitment Backtracking Timeline. June 2010. http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/campaigns/toxics/electronics/Guide-to-Greener-Electronics/companies/Dell/Dells-commitment-backtracking-timeline/

Greenpeace International. Guide to Greener Electronics: Ranking Criteria Explained. November 2012. http://www.greenpeace.org/international/Global/international/publications/climate/2012/GuideGreenerElectronics/Guide-Ranking-Criteria-v18.pdf

Greenpeace International. 2012 Guide to Greener Electronics, Dell. November 2012. http://www.greenpeace.org/international/Global/international/publications/climate/2012/GuideGreenerElectronics/DELL.pdf

Dubsky, Eoin. Dell has run out of excuses. Greenpeace International. 1 June 2010. Blog post. http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/Blogs/makingwaves/dell-has-run-out-of-excuses/blog/11984/

Ribeiro, John. IDG News Service. PC World. Greenpeace Protests Outside Dell Offices to Continue. 29 March 2010. http://www.pcworld.com/article/192746/article.html

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Ryan Leitner 02/03/2014