Networks & Components: Do visionary technologies and sustainability go hand in hand?

Source: Oekom, 29 January 2003

The question of which companies take a responsible attitude towards investors, employees and the environment is becoming an increasingly explosive issue. The Munich-based rating agency oekom research has been focussing on precisely this issue for almost ten years now. In its latest "Corporate Responsibility Rating", it analysed the 19 top companies in the networks and components industry worldwide whose principal products are memory chips, semiconductors and mobile phones. 200 environmental and social criteria were examined in the study. On a scale from A+ to D-, Siemens (DE) achieved a B, followed by Ericsson (SE) and Intel (US), both of whom scored a B-. Qualcomm and EMC (both US companies) turned in the worst performances, both scoring a D. Four companies failed to provide sufficiently transparent information, with the result that it was not possible to draw up a comprehensive Corporate Responsibility Rating for them.
The results in detail were as follows: just under three-quarters of the companies publish environmentally relevant information in separate reports or on their websites. Fourteen companies were able to point to an environmental management system. The environmental evaluation of products focussed above all on the composition of microelectronic components. "The use of substances like lead, mercury and cadmium is a problem here. They have been declared to be environmental contaminants, the adverse consequences of which come into effect when obsolete products are disposed of, says Evelyn Bohle, the analyst responsible at oekom research. Nine companies have developed guidelines on undesirable component materials. However, these do not provide a comprehensive solution to the problem, but merely restrict the use of individual substances.

The conclusions arrived at in the report on social aspects make sobering reading. Only three of the companies draw up comprehensive social reports, while the large majority of the rest report piecemeal on isolated socio-cultural activities, covering areas such as sponsoring, for example. Many companies are dismantling their own production capacity and outsourcing production to low-wage countries such as China. Unfortunately, only a small number of companies were able to provide information about agreements in employment contracts there, and one would search almost in vain in the sector for compulsory standards for suppliers with regard to guaranteed minimum wages or maximum working hours.

The average score for the sector in the Corporate Responsibility Rating was a C. This result illustrates that many companies are failing to implement the principle of sustainability consistently in practice and still have a long way to go in terms of meeting their social responsibilities.


19 companies were analysed in the present Corporate Responsibility Rating:

Alcatel (FR), Cisco Systems (US), EMC (US), Epcos (DE), Ericsson (SE), Infineon (DE), Intel (US), Kyocera (JP), Lucent (US), Motorola (US), Nokia (FI), Nortel (CA), Qualcomm (US), Siemens (DE), Texas Instruments (US). Four companies did not provide sufficient information: 3COM (US), Broadcom (US), Lexmark (US), Tandberg Television (NO).