(5) Tom AlbaneseWhen it comes to long-term environmental destruction, the world's second largest mining company has done an outstanding job. Whether digging up rainforests in Madagascar, dumping toxic wastes into the oceans of Papua New Guinea, operating illegal open pit uranium mines in Africa, or squelching peaceful protests, Rio Tinto has worked efficiently over the last 125 years. The person now at the helm of that juggernaut is Tom Albanese. Acknowledging that Rio Tinto has a number of social and legacies to deal with, Albanese nonetheless stressed in a 2006 interview that Rio Tinto was a "good corporate citizen". Will the $30 billion dollar company Albanese now leads start to fulfill its ethical responsibilities? Perhaps it's too early to say. At this time much of Rio Tinto's management seems focused on acquiring smaller companies such as ALCAN or avoiding hostile takeovers by larger ones such as BHP Billiton.
If we take corporate publicity at face value, it does seem that Rio Tinto is "greening up". In 2007 it joined the United States Climate Action Partnership (USCAP) and it is now a recognized member of the FTSE4Good Index. Magnanimously, they even promote an annual $1M prize for sustainability in conjunction with the Prince of Wales International Business Leaders Forum. Plaudits should also come for its high Ceres rankings (Greener World Media, 2006).
However, despite these improvements, in some ways Rio Tinto remains a dirty business. It has been unable to entirely divest itself from operations in Burma, ruled for decades by a harsh dictatorship. And its treatment of workers in Zimbabwe merits concerns.
How "green" is Rio Tinto actually? Perhaps it should be said that Albanese is trying his best to meet the contradictory demands of the system that seeks to enhance profit, attract investors, persuade government bureaucrats, and appease environmental critics at the same time.
ALCAN & International Business Leaders Forum. (2008). Alcan Award for Sustainability. Retrieved March 14 from http://www.alcanprizeforsustainability.com/intro.php
Anti-Nuclear Alliance of Western Australia. (2000, October 12). Rio Tinto. Retrieved March 14, 2008 from http://www.anawa.org.au/industry/riotinto.html
Earth Times. (2007, April 16). Bougainville: Court rules in favour. Retrieved March 14, 2008 from http://www.minesandcommunities.org/Action/press1454.htm
Greener World Media. (2006). Ceres releases first-ever ranking of 100 global companies on climate change strategy. Retrieved March 14, 2008 from http://www.climatebiz.com/sections/news_detail.cfm?NewsID=30656
Greenpeace Australia Pacific. (2002, November 19). Rio Tinto scrutinised for ocean dumping. Retrieved March 14, 2008 from http://www.greenpeace.org/australia/news-and-events/media/releases/general/rio-tinto-scrutinised-for-ocea
Mineral Policy Institute. (2000, May 22). Rio Tinto's Shame File. Retrieved March 14, 2008 from http://www.mpi.org.au/campaigns/rights/shame_file/
Revill, J. (2005, August 7). Madagascar's unique forest under threat. The Observer (Science Column). Retrieved March 14, 2008 from http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2005/aug/07/conservationandendangeredspecies.internationalnews
Vassilopoulos, J. (1997, December 3). Rio Tinto: the world's worst company? Green Left Weekly Homepage. Issue 300. Retrieved March 14, 2008 from http://www.greenleft.org.au/1997/300/15334
Webb, T. (2006, December 10). Tom Albanese: Green-tinted Rio. The Independent. (People Column). Retrieved March 14, 2008 from http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/tom-albanese-greentinted-rio-427754.html
World Coal Institute. (2008, March 14). Archived Press Releases. Retrieved March 14, 2008 from http://www.worldcoal.org/ pages/news/press_archive.asp?PageID=195
(6) Steve JobsWouldn't it be great if Apple products worldwide were recycled? Or pretty cool if all Apple products were free of bromides, phthalates, & PCVs? The person in the best position to make this happen is the CEO of Apple Inc. With over 4 million iPods, several million iPhones, and at least 1 million Apple computers produced annually, don't you think this would have make a difference? What if Apple cared about the environment as much it is does about product design?
Widely regarded as a techno-visionary, Jobs was the driving force behind much of his Cupertino company's history. With annual sales somewhere around $24 billion and a base of 20+ million computer users worldwide, there's no question that Jobs is a powerful business leader. In terms of ecology, however, he's often been behind the pack. A 2006 Wired magazine described Apple as having "one of the worst recycling records in the American PC industry". A Mother Jones article the same year characterizes this company's environmental record as "rotten". In 2006 Greenpeace awarded Apple a 2.7-out-of-10 environmental rating.
In 2007 Jobs announced that it would beef up its recycling program and gradually phase out the use of BFRs and PVCs. Corporate publicity for Apple claims it is "ahead of the competition" in terms of environmental responsibility. It points out how lead was essentially eliminated from CRTs in 2006. The introduction of arsenic-free glass in 2007 also won some kudos. And in 2008 Greenpeace gave this company a 6.7-out-of-10 score eco-rating: above Microsoft & Acer, but behind Samsung & Toshiba.
Some aspects of Apple's performance, however, remain problematic. At the time of this writing, Apple products still contain phthalate, a toxin conjectured to cause birth defects. A deeper concern, voiced by Giles Slade, is the apparent "built-in obsolescence" of many Apple products. For example, the iPod batteries are sealed in their cases and difficult to replace - the machine is made to be disposable. The motherboards of two iBooks that I have purchased were worthless within a year, and several friends have had similar complaints. Unbelievable how much high-tech waste can accumulate if machines are made to have short life cycles. Although planned obsolescence might be good for keeping sales high, how good is it for this planet?
Greenpeace. (2006, August 25). Guide to Greener Electronics. Retrieved March 22, 2008 from http://www.greenpeace.org/international/press/reports/greener-electronics-guide
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Greenpeace. (2007 October, 15). Missed call: the iPhone's hazardous chemicals - When will promises of a greener Apple bear fruit? Retrieved March 22, 2008 from http://www.greenpeace.org/international/news/iPhone-test-hazardous-toxic-chemicals151007
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Jobs, S. (2008). A Greener Apple. Retrieved March 22, 2008 from http://www.apple.com/hotnews/agreenerapple/
Mortensen, P. (2006, April 26). Recycling: Not Apple's Core Value. Wired > Gadgets > Mac. Retrieved March 22, 2008 from http://www.wired.com/gadgets/mac/news/2006/04/70739
Slade, G. (2007, March/April). iWaste. Mother Jones Online. Retrieved March 22, 2008 from http://www.motherjones.com/commentary/columns/2007/03/iwaste.html
(7) T NewfieldsWhudz wid dis guy? He wraites all sortz ugh funky environmental poetry 'n duz sum far-out art, butt when it kums ta action, where's he really stand? How well duz dis bugger actually "walk his talk", huh? One ah dah best wayz ta find out is ta look at how much energy he spendz. Along wid his overweight Japanese wife, he consumes an average ah 452 KWHs ah electricity, 19 m3 liters ah water, und 38.5 3 ah gas each month. Dat soundz bout average, huh? But hey, let's factor in a few more dings. Wifey has a kar dat's driven 'bout 1366 km a month. Uh huh. And dis jerk has 3 computers at home & 1 at work. Hmm. D'ya smell sum hypocrisy?
To this joker's credit, Newfields has no kidz: at least he's not making duh planet more crowded. He sets his air con to 30 degrees in summer and in winter simply puts on extra clothes instead ah using heaters. And through he picks up trash & avoids disposable chopsticks, he also lives with money contradictions. His love ah high-tech gizmos is egregious. As is his fondness for fine food & travel. Don't expect this dude to eschew fresh Canadian razzberries or New Zealand kiwi jes cuz they're flown across the globe. There's simply not enough green in his blood for heoric frugality. "I am a hypocrite in many ways" he confessed in 2008. Perhaps so, but dudes like Newfields argh common. Millions like 'em make marginal attempts ta be eco-conscious, but whin it cums ta real sacrifice, basic creature comforts cum first.