Posted by: Bruce Einhorn on September 6, 2007
If there’s any company that has a chance of becoming India’s answer to Lenovo, it’s HCL. The PC maker is the top local brand, second in market share only to Hewlett Packard. Now HCL finds itself in the midst of an embarrassing fight with global environmental group Greenpeace. Last week, green activists staged a demonstration (or, as Greenpeace dramatically called it, a “Shame HCL” protest”) at the company’s headquarters in Noida, near Delhi. Greenpeace’s gripe: The demonstrators want HCL “to end the use of hazardous chemicals in its products and accept responsibility for its end-of-life products.” In a statement on its website, Greenpeace also criticized HCL’s policy on phasing out hazardous chemicals as “misleading ‘greenwash’.” Adds Greenpeace: “HCL has talked about ‘striving’ to phase out PVC and BFRs, once ‘economically viable technical solutions’ exist.”
For its part, HCL argues that it is doing nothing wrong. On its website, the company has a press statement from earlier this year from George Paul, the company’s executive vice president. According to Paul, “HCL, as a socially responsible corporate citizen, has a comprehensive program to ensure protection of environment, health and safety of all its stakeholders, which also recognizes the need to minimize the hazardous impact of e-wastes of its products on the environment.” The company has launched a new range of notebook PCs that are compliant with RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) standards.
Until recently, I bet few people outside of India would care much about the environmental bona fides of an Indian PC maker. India’s PC market was tiny, an afterthought for companies focusing more on important Asian markets like China and Japan. But the industry is now taking off as the government has eased tariffs on imported equipment and parts. Demand is soaring and companies like Dell, HP and Lenovo are all boosting their India investments. And with developing countries across Asia and Africa suffering from mountains of toxic e-waste imported from the West, maybe it’s not such a bad thing for greens to remind companies that they need to clean up their acts quickly.