Global 100 names IT companies as sustainable

Although IT companies are not often known for their environmental and social traits, nine have made it into this years' Global 100 list of top sustainable companies.

The list, compiled by research company Innovest, compares companies to their sector peers from the MSCI World Index and assesses them for their capacity to address their sector-specific environmental, social and governance risks and opportunities.

Its stated aim is, "To raise questions about the role of the corporation in society, to add momentum to sincere corporate sustainability initiatives and to help the public see corporations in a broader sense."

This years' list includes Ericsson, Nokia, Hewlett-Packard, Agilent Technologies, Canon, Ricoh, Intel, STMicroelectronics and SAP.

Ricoh's quality and environment manager, Neville Cooper, said the IT industry has probably been a victim of its own success.

"Phenomenal growth and advancements in technology has resulted in a churn and burn situation. Suppliers have had to work quickly just to keep up with demand and technological advances. Unfortunately, this has left little time to work out how to manage the 'burn' side of the equation," he said.

"While suppliers carry a lot of responsibility, we shouldn't just point the finger at industry alone. After all it wasn't until 2004 that the government's Extended Producer Responsibility statement identified computer waste as a priority focus. The awareness just wasn't there."

Cooper thinks this situation is set to improve with green procurement initiatives now high on the agendas for government and many corporations, and an increased general awareness by industry, and consumers alike.

Ricoh spends more than $500,000 annually in environmental programs, with around 5 percent invested in R&D.

In 2002, Ricoh was one of the first companies to offer its customers closed loop recycling of its toner cartridges and bottles. Many other companies now offer a similar service.

"To date we have diverted 82.3 tonnes of Ricoh toner container and other Ricoh consumable materials from landfill with a 100 percent resource recovery rate," Cooper said.

Another tick in Ricoh's environmental kudos book is its award winning Quick Start up (QSU) technology, which enables machines to operate within 10 seconds from the energy saving mode. In 2003, this feature was estimated to have averted 15,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.

Spokesperson for Canon Australia, Andrew Giles said, as part of Canon's efforts towards sustainability, that: "Canon thoroughly educates employees to follow the principle of putting public order and morals ahead of profit. We have instituted an independent set of environmental assurance rules as the basis for its environmental risk management and risk communication activities," he said.

Canon also offers practical environmental courses that aim to teach employees the importance of environmental conservation and encourages them to integrate that thinking into their daily lives.

"We aim to be environmentally conscious in every one of our products by using LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) methods to analyze the environmental impact of our products. A numerical understanding of the burden helps us design products with progressively higher energy and resource efficiency without the use of hazardous substances," he said.

Canon and its main subsidiaries and affiliates invested $185.2 million in environmental protection activities in 2004.

Launched in 2005, the annual Global 100 is announced each year at the World Economic Forum.

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Dahna McConnachie

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