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FEATURESTORY
HP, Lenovo, and Dell have
fallen well short of Greenpeace’s
expectations for failing to live up
to their promises. All three had
said that they would eliminate vi-
nyl plastic (PVC) and brominated
flame retardants (BFRs) in their
products by the end of this year,
but they’ve now told Greenpeace
that they won’t be able to meet
that timeline. Only Lenovo has set
a new deadline (the end of 2010).
The big winner, on the other hand,
is Philips, which has jumped from
15th place to 4th as a result of
some new recycling initiatives.
Nintendo is once again dead last.
proud of all it has achieved. says, including Timberland, prefer to be ignorant
“This is not about greenwashing. This is the real even though they know the tool is available.
deal,” Wal-Mart China’s Senior Director of Merchan- But while the pollution maps can help a com-
It’s absolutely
dising Ross Farnsworth says, speaking of his work pany sustainably manage their supply chain, it’s
unrealistic
sourcing fresh fruit from local farmers. “As we got not always so clear-cut. An underlying problem is
to expect
into this sustainability effort back in 2005, at first that suppliers often contract out to other factories,
we did it from a defensive standpoint. But what making the supply chain links a bit fuzzy. The in-
suppliers
we’ve learned as we’ve gotten into it, it just makes dustrial manufacturing director believes that com-
to measure
sense.” pliance is much harder in China than in factories
up to client
On the other hand, Kathee Rebernak, who runs in smaller Southeast Asian countries. “There are
Framework:CR, a leading corporate responsibility so many factories here, there’s no way they can
company’s
and financial communications firm, says Wal-Mart regulate every one,” he says.
standards.
has much to improve if it wants to avoid green-
washing claims. Her article “What’s wrong with Lesson 5: The system of accountability
Pierig Vezin,
Wal-Mart’s Sustainability Reporting” argues that doesn’t work.
CEO of Wethica
the company is taking a PR approach instead of
embracing transparency by speaking broadly Speaking from years of experience dealing with
about goals without tackling specifics. suppliers and client companies, the director main-
tains that most companies pressure their suppli-
Lesson 4: Transparency is key ers for the cheapest price and then expect com-
pliance on environmental standards. Suppliers are
What’s a company to do? There’s no way for it to struggling to survive and don’t want to lose money
track of all its suppliers in China, right? either, so they satisfy their client companies with
Actually that’s becoming less true with the de- fake documents. When scandal breaks, compa-
velopment of greater transparency in China, albeit nies blame their suppliers for lying to them. As it
very slowly. The data Ma Jun uses in his organi- did in 2007 with a rash of tainted product scares
zation’s air and water pollution maps is provided and more recently with reports of tainted drywall,
by the government, which a year ago passed new the blame goes to Made in China, and not Poorly
measures on disclosure of environmental informa- Managed Supply Chain.
tion. He introduces the maps to multinational and Even if a company does put pressure on its sup-
Chinese companies and shows them how they can pliers to adhere to environmental standards, often-
be utilized. times lack of follow-through on these standards
Companies like Nike, GE, Wal-Mart and Esquel leads to a chain of fakes and lies.
use the maps as a tool for keeping track of their According to Pierig Vezin, CEO of Wethica, which
suppliers and finding known polluters. Others, he conducts long-term social responsibility audits for
30 JULY/AUGUST 2009 www.chainaonline.com
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