With mobile phones becoming ever more ubiquitous around the globe, and taking on many of the tasks previously assigned to personal computers, measuring the environmental impacts of mobiles is an urgent task.
This week, the Good Guide, publishers of detailed rankings of the health, environmental and social impacts of consumer products ranging from pet food to appliances, have added mobile phones to the lists.
The results of the rankings of 596 cell phones from 16 manufacturers, highlight some clear winners and losers, and also showcase how a company's overall performance can and should impact the greenness of a product.
Nokia holds the crown for having the highest-ranking phones -- 26 of the top 30 models are Nokia phones -- most with scores of 7.7 or 7.6 out of a possible 10 points. Also scoring near the top is Samsung's Blue Earth phone, with a perfect 10 on the product environmental score for its energy-efficient charger, use of eco materials, and elimination of brominated flame retardants and PVC.
Nokia's C6 cell phone, which is the overall highest rated product in the list, scored 9.0 on the environmental rankings, but because Nokia as a company performs better on environmental criteria, with 6.5 out of 10 compared to Samsung's 5.8, the phone scored higher overall.
Apple's iPhone fell in the lower-middle of the pack, with a 5.6 ranking for all three iPhones tested. While the product itself scored an 8.5 on environmental criteria -- the company long ago began phasing out toxics from its devices -- Apple the company earned just a 5.0 ranking, in part for its lack of disclosure of other key social and environmental issues.
By far the lowest-ranking company on the list is Research in Motion, whose BlackBerry phones earned a 3.3 rating on average, the lowest of all phones scored. Although its phones in general earn higher scores -- the Bold 9000 smartphone, as an example, scored a 5.0 -- the scores were dragged down by RIM's poor environmental performance. The company scored just .08 on standard environmental performance, for its greenhouse gas commitments and reporting as well as water, waste and air pollution records.
Good Guide was started by Dara O'Rourke, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, as a way to make it easier for customers to make smart decisions about the products they buy, while they're shopping.
As the company's senior director of business development, Joshua Saunders, wrote on GreenBiz.com last summer:
Here at GoodGuide, we provide millions of consumers with health, environmental and social responsibility information on the products they buy every day. While we provide product and company-level information with the hopes of influencing consumer purchasing behavior, we aren’t directly rewarding consumers who do make greener purchases. A little over six months ago we launched an iPhone barcode scanning app so that consumers can get sustainability information quickly and easily at point of purchase and the app is quickly approaching a half million users.
The full rankings for all 596 cell phones are available online at GoodGuide.com.