Corporates must go green | HT Tech

Corporates must go green

The United Nations Conference on Corporate Accountability has just come to an end in New York. It is very likely that the predominant voice of the conference will be that of the big companies.

By: EARTH WATCH | BHARATI CHATURVEDI
| Updated on: Jul 20 2004, 16:46 IST

The United Nations Conference on Corporate Accountability has just come to an end in New York. It is very likely that the predominant voice of the conference will be that of the big companies.

At the other end, another conference has just finished in Seoul. That is the Waste Not Asia 2004, a group of over 150 organizations from across Asia. They are demanding corporate accountability on the basis of what they have been seeing and researching for several months now. One of the most polluting and unfortunate aspects was related to the dumping of electronic waste by richer countries onto the developing world. This includes computers, mobile phones, fridges and other electronic devices. The waste is very hazardous with all kinds of heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, mercury, bromine-based flame-retardants that are very toxic and require to be handled under very controlled circumstances in order to prevent workers from being exposed to these risks or pollution to the environment. When they are dumped on poorer countries, they end up being burned in the open, broken and dumped just about anywhere.

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Many producers are expected to take responsibility for their products throughout their lifecycle, under a new concept called Extended Producer Responsibility, or EPR. But despite the very strong movement towards EPR in Korea, Seoul too sends its e-waste to countries like China and India. So, being responsible within the borders of a country which has strict rules is not enough. Corporate bodies have to be made globally responsible for us to stop being recipients of poisons.

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A positive start

Many of these poisons actually cannot be handled in any manner that is safe and finally require to be phased out. The good news, again from Korea, is that Samsung has decided to be a trailblazer and set a fine example for others. It has said that it will phase out many of the hazardous chemicals it uses and move to cleaner products. This decision came after tests undertaken by Greenpeace on the company's TVs and mobiles showed how hazardous they were. Now we're talking real corporate accountability.

Plastic solutions

Since this entire column has been centered on South Korea here's a bit of good news. Koreans have banned the use of disposable tableware in restaurants. This includes disposable chopsticks and plates.

One of the reasons why this is an amazing bit of news is that Seoul is the seventh most expensive city to live in and plastics are cheap due to false subsidies. Yet, the environment seems to have had a place of priority here. Cheers to that!

(If you feel for Planet Earth, write to Earthwatch1@rediffmail.com)

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First Published Date: 14 Jul, 18:14 IST
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