After rating Hewlett-Packard low on its Green Meter did little to convince the company to change its ways, Greenpeace on Tuesday decided to resort to more direct action.
It sent activists to HP's global headquarters in Palo Alto, California, where they climbed on top of the building and painted a gigantic message -- 'Hazardous Products' -- using nontoxic children's finger paint. The message covered more than 1,000 metres squared, which is about the size of two and a half basketball courts.
According to Greenpeace, the organisation took this action because HP broke its promise to eliminate hazardous chemicals in its products. Earlier this year, HP postponed its 2007 commitment to phase out dangerous substances, such as brominated flame retardants (BFRs) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastics, from its computing products. The delay shifts compliance back two years, from 2009 to 2011.
PVC and BFRs are highly toxic, and when burned can release dioxin, a chemical known to cause cancer.
Apart from the graffiti, HP employees were also greeted today by automated phone calls from actor William Shatner, calling upon the company to phase out toxic chemicals.
HP released this statement in response:
"For decades HP has been a leader in environmental responsibility and has adopted practices in product development, operations and supply chain that are transparent and help to reduce its environmental impact. HP has a comprehensive approach to environmental sustainability, with three main components: minimising our impact; helping our customers to improve their environmental performance; and driving towards a sustainable, low-carbon economy.
"This commitment includes reducing the use of BFR/PVC in our products until these materials are eliminated entirely. HP has introduced several new computing products this year that use less BFR/PVC than previous generations. This September, HP will release a BFR/PVC-free notebook. By fall 2010 all new commercial PC products released will be BFR/PVC-free. By the end of 2011, all new PC products released will be free of BFR/PVCs.
"The unconstructive antics at HP's headquarters today did nothing to advance the goals that all who care about the environment share. HP will continue its efforts to develop new products and programmes around the globe that help the company, its business partners and customers conserve energy, reduce materials use and reduce waste through responsible reuse and recycling. HP supports industry efforts to eliminate BFR and PVC because of potential e-waste issues. HP is a worldwide leader in e-waste recycling. HP has recycled 1 billion pounds of electronic products from 1987 to 2007 and has committed to recycling another billion pounds between 2008 and 2011."
Earlier this year, Greenpeace released a report that rated PC makers and other electronic vendors in regard to their compliance with e-waste elimination. Apple was ranked highest among PC makers and HP was one of the lowest, together with Dell and Lenovo.