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Sponsors Get Bad Green Report Card

Firms didn’t live up to promises: Greenpeace

Shi Jiangtao in Beijing – SCMP – Updated on Jul 28, 2008

Corporate sponsors for the Beijing Olympics have delivered only partially on commitments for a green Games, an international study has found.

The study on sponsors’ performance is included in a Greenpeace report entitled “China after the Olympics: lessons from Beijing”, looking at how the host city has delivered on its promises.

Like previous assessments of Sydney in 2000 and Athens in 2004, the study focused on refrigeration technologies and electronic products containing toxic substances, because they could be “addressed or solved with more leadership from select corporate leaders”.

It said the best way for sponsors to uphold the green theme would be “to provide best-available technology and to engage in best practices that not only reduce their environmental footprint for the Olympic Games but also serve as a model for their respective industries”.

It found that most of the seven refrigeration-using and electronic sponsors listed in the report had not made full use of the Olympics to showcase state-of-the-art, climate-friendly technologies.

While Coca-Cola had lived up to its pledges to use natural refrigerants to power more than 5,600 coolers and vending machines to be used in Olympic venues, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a climate-damaging cooling agent, were still widely used in many other products provided by Games sponsors.

It noted that Haier, the country’s largest appliance maker, which provided more than 30 products for the Games, had showcased HFC-free solar-based air conditioners in the Olympic Village and tennis centre.

But it failed to make the majority of its electronic products for many other Games venues HFC-free.

“Moreover, while Haier has provided Coca-Cola with HFC-free coolers, which can be seen throughout Olympic venues, Haier has also provided a large fleet of commercial coolers using HFCs for other sponsors who did not request Haier to supply HFC-free cooling technology,” it said.

Refrigeration-using sponsors like McDonald’s and Yili, one of the mainland’s largest dairy companies, were also criticised for failing to set an example to help phase out climate-damaging cooling technology.

“Industry sources have confirmed that Yili is providing commercial coolers containing HFCs for the Olympics,” Greenpeace wrote. “Greenpeace urges Yili to use the post-Olympics period to phase out the use of HFCs in its ice-cream coolers in favour of refrigeration systems using natural refrigerants.”

The green group also said repeated attempts to contact Yili to discuss the issue had failed.

The study also looked at three electronic sponsors – Samsung, Lenovo and Panasonic – to see whether they had eliminated the use of toxic chemicals and other hazardous raw materials in their products.

All three were found to have used toxic vinyl plastic (PVCs) and brominated flame retardants (BFRs) in their Games products.

Samsung had honoured its commitment to make one of the three models of phones used in Olympic venues, and sold to consumers across the mainland, free of PVCs and BFRs. But the study said the company had failed to do the same for the other official Olympic phones.

Both computer models Lenovo supplied to the Games contained the two toxic chemicals.

The mainland’s top computer maker had “missed an opportunity to use the Olympics as a platform to phase in green computers that do not harm the environment”.

The study also said the company had promised Greenpeace in 2006 that it would eliminate the use of PVCs and BFRs from all of its products by the end of next year, but it had yet to put a 100 per cent PVC- and BFR-free product on the market.

Lenovo and Haier did not reply to e-mail requests from the South China Morning Post for comments, and telephone numbers published on Yili’s official website went unanswered.

Greenpeace urged the International Olympic Committee and the host city to be more responsible and balance financial considerations and environmental standards when making decisions on Olympic partners and sponsors.

“While financial considerations are undoubtedly important, the IOC and every host city should also require basic environmental guidelines for sponsors to encourage real leadership on the environment.

“As part of the sponsors bidding criteria, the IOC should set mandatory standards that prohibit or limit sponsors from using substances that are toxic, polluting, or contribute to climate change, and make sure they are enforced by host cities.”

The report, which also covers a wide range of other environmental issues Beijing has dealt with, including air pollution and the treatment of toxic waste, will be released today.

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