Why Won't Nintendo Go Green?

This month is Earth Month, and is as good a time as any to look at the efforts of video game companies around the world to ‘go green’. Greenpeace consistently updates its guide to greener electronics by ranking the top 18 electronic companies in the world, and Nintendo has been dead last for years. We spoke to Greenpeace representative Casey Harrel about the results, and what Nintendo could be doing to improve their dismal environmental record.

“Nintendo remains in last place,” reads the report, “with the same score of 1.8 out of 10.”

Dismal. In Greenpeace’s Guide to Greener Electronics, Nintendo has been dead last for years. Microsoft are only one spot ahead, but at least they appear to be making some semblance of effort. The issue with Nintendo, according to Greenpeace rep Casey Harrel, is that they barely even attempt to submit, or make available, the information Greenpeace require to make accurate judgements.

The Nintendogs, it appears, have eaten their homework.

“Nintendo consistently scores the poorest on our Guide to Greener Electronics,” begins Corey, “primarily because they don’t submit, nor have any publicly available information, on over half the criteria that we use to assess company performance on the Guide.

“And those that they do have answers for, are quite poor.”

According to the report, Nintendo “continues to score zero on all e-waste criteria,” “has not set a timeline” for the “phase out” of PVC use, and continually increases its CO2 emissions each year.

Nintendo’s report card clearly reads – must try harder.

And effort seems to be the key. When Apple, for example, scored terribly on the Greenpeace report some years back, as a company they took it to heart, implementing new strategies which now put the company roughly in the middle of the ‘green’ spectrum, just below Sony, Panasonic and Motorola.

Getting Nintendo to even address the subject is half the battle.

“Unlike the other 17 companies on the Guide,” says Casey, “Nintendo is incredibly tight-lipped – and I've been told this extends to issues well outside the environmental sphere. Our interaction has been limited to a few chance meetings with non-Japanese staff - usually newbies in the company - who we've run into at trade shows. They make promises to talk further, and then it’s either radio silence or a polite email back, saying that they can't talk to us.”

It’s a familiar story. Dealings with Nintendo, in our experience, are infrequent and always on their terms.

We asked Casey what he thought was stopping Nintendo from making the effort.

“Perhaps their willingness to engage,” responds Casey. “I could speculate further, but without any informed opinion from engagement I'd just be hypothesizing. I think that they are not inherently challenged on any of the questions we are assessing them - with the possible exception of energy efficiency.”

Microsoft is another bad apple, but Sony has become increasingly green friendly as a company, keeping in pace with the rest of the technology world which, as an industry, has made great strides in the last decade.

“I think in general - Nintendo excluded - the general progression of the consumer electronics industry on ecological issues is one of moderate improvements over time,” claims Casey. “Looking back 5, 10 years ago, the products are now made with less toxic materials, run more energy efficiently, and have a greater ability to be recycled.”

Could Sony’s broader range of products, across different types of tech, have any kind of influence on their stronger scores?

“Sony has a wider product portfolio - and in general many more consumer electronic products - so innovation on energy efficiency design or knowledge accrued on chemical management/elimination could be transferred from one product division to another more easily at a company like Sony than Microsoft or Nintendo.

“But, conversely, a limited product range does allow focus…”

It seems more likely that Nintendo’s poor environmental record is a result of corporate culture. Nintendo tend to insulate themselves from current trends and, for better or worse, that’s been a common theme throughout their history. Stubbornly using cartridges with the N64, removing themselves from the tech arms race with the Wii – it’s served them well on occasions and less well on others, but that attitude seems to have transferred across to environmental issues.

Nintendo simply won’t listen or engage with Greenpeace, and won’t change their behaviour to suit them.

We asked Casey what changes, in an ideal world, he would like Nintendo to make.

“Well,” he began, “Nintendo has a lot of room for improvement. Ideally, I'd like to see them start with disclosure. The company is not disclosing much information on their environmental impact. This will be a good gauge on where they need to improve

“Progress should start with a strong commitment to chemicals management and a precautionary approach to the materials they use in their products - they should use chemicals that they know don't cause harm.

“This eco-design will reap benefits in terms of the recyclability of their products, and likely up the percentage of goods that are collected for proper dismantling and recycling. This will allow more recycled content to be place in next-gen consumer electronics.

“And, finally, focus on energy use, both in the manufacturing of the products, but also during the use phase, where - specifically in game consoles - there is significant energy use. Bring efficiency down by a factor of eight - using Moore's law, this should be feasible within five years.”

“In short,” he says, finally, “Nintendo, like all companies can ideally be in a place within five years where they make products free of toxic chemicals, that are highly recyclable, have a factor lighter carbon footprint, and use significantly less energy during their lifespan.”

But will Nintendo heed the call? That’s the real question.


Comments

    "This will allow more recycled content to be place in next-gen consumer electronics."

    As if Nintendo need any incentive to recycle everything. :P

      They recycled old GameCubes to make Wiis. Isn't that enough for Greenpeace?

        THIS!!!!!

    The thing I find annoying is the sense of entitlement groups like greenpeace seem to have. "Just give us all your sensitive business data and we'll tell you how to spend money to improve your ranking on a scoreboard you didn't ask to be put on"
    Greenpeace aren't a regulatory body so there is no reason other than pure PR for Nintendo to respond to them any differently than a random off the street.

      Agreed.

      Additionally, it's interesting to note that Nintendo is the only company on their list that has only improved since ranking began. By comparison, almost every other company's score has changed sporadically (by the looks of it as a result of 'knee-jerk' reactionary changes that are quickly undone 6 months later).

      It's kind of hilarious yet sad that you refer to Greenpeace as having a sense of entitlement for wanting large companies to show some environmental and social responsibility. Considering how selfish and entitled having a 'f*** you and your environment too, I deserve to make money any way I please' attitude is. Officially sanctioned and appointed regulatory bodies do f*** all to change anything (look how pathetic the RSPCA is for example), that's why organisations like Greenpeace are so important for the role they play in lobbying companies and governments to step up and take some responsibility for what they're doing.
      It's a sad world when people/companies only care to do something if it makes for good PR.

      PS. sorry Mark, you'll just have to censor me. :) this crappy attitude makes me to angry to self-censor.

      Actually, considering that Japan has ratified the Kyoto Protocol, they WILL have to disclose these info by the end of next year no matter what. It's only a matter of time.

      Also..yes, these are quite "sensitive business info", but it actually won't cause you any harm unless you have something to hide. Knowing how much carbon-equivalent emission or what kind of chemical goes into their machines isn't going to make any difference to anyone's life. Trying to reverse engineer Nintendo's tech out of that is just stupid, because you can go out, spend 200 dollars to buy the machine, and reverse engineer it from there with much less effort.

      I understand that it's perfectly within Nintendo's rights not to disclose their info--not that any of their customers would care how well they rank in eco-friendliness to begin with. (Seriously..if you buy Nintendo, would you care about anything that is even remotely sophisticated and academic? I posit not). Doing so would help your company if you're after the high-tech, sophisticated consumers like Sony. But with Nintendo, they have nothing to lose, nor to gain..so why change (it's not even fixing/upgrading, since there would be 0 impact to their sales) what's not broken?

    Better to keep your mouth closed, than to open it and look like a polluter?

    Not that I particularly care for Greenpeace or their report cards

    I'd have more sympathy for Greenpeace if everyone I met who was a member of the organisation wasn't a complete tool.

    There's an insufferably smug Greenpeace guy with a pony tail and sandals who harrasses pedestrians on Hay St in Perth. Often seen at lunchtime chowing into a Big Mac meal, hypocritical douche bag.

      McDonald's actually do quite a lot in terms of recycling, etc.

    “primarily because they don’t submit, nor have any publicly available information, on over half the criteria that we use to assess company performance on the Guide."

    So we decided to score them anyway Thus invalidating the system in anyway

    Greenpeace need to stop being all high and mighty, no one is under any obligation to provide them with squat.

    and then you look at others who purport to have the same sort of values like the greens who want to stop the new coal power plant, and are highly against nuclear power.

    Newsflash you do things on a compromise, ie you can have coal power because theres no radioactive waste. Or you can have Nuclear power because aside from the nuclear waste its a much much cleaner source of power

    "Nintendo tend to insulate themselves from current trends and, for better or worse, that’s been a common theme throughout their history."

    Nintendo = hipsters
    I knew there was a reason I automatically dislike Nintendo fans...

    They have the console with the lowest energy consumption of the current generation and it isn't fired up just to play a dvd or CD.
    Also browese the internet so you don't have to fire up a desktop or notebook just to check wikipedia.
    Yeah, Nintendo are the problem.

      Actually, the Wii has the largest standby power consumption, even if they do use less at peak hours. If you keep your consoles plugged in and only play on the weekend, Wii will end up using more energy than the 360 and PS3.

    Greenpeace and PETA. Two smug, elitist, guilt driven organizations i have absolutely zero time for. I'm guessing in the case of Greenpeace, Nintendo hold the same view.

      While I don't agree with most of PETA and Greenpeace's over-reaction, I do hope that your house will be the first to sink/be blown away/burn WHEN(it's not an "if", people!) global warming gets bad enough.

      Sadly, I know that my house (which is pretty damn close to sea level) will probably sink before you. Actually, half my country would sink before yours anyway..but then why care about 30 million people somewhere off in Asia when good old US of A is still enjoying the good life, right?

        You keep on believing your Anti carbon dioxide fairytale. I on the other hand will be burning as much "deadly" C02 into the air as I can to keep warm. :)

        Ignore the fact that the globe has been cooling for the past ten years, ignore the factors that the sun and sunspots interject into the overall "warming." Ignore the fact that thousands of years before humans that much, much more Carbon Dioxide has been in the atmosphere and did not cause anything that the alarmist priest of the Carbon Tax, Al Gore "predicted".

        Just ignore everything and go back to aimlessly believing in the religious teachings of the so called "green movement".

        http://plantsneedc02.org/

        Please go read something before you embarrass yourself. :)

        what a useral, brain dead environmentalist reply.
        "you dont follow what i follow so u hate everything and are a bad person"
        sorry have u have will get use to being ignored when you grasp as straws about WHATS IFS and POSSABILITIES

    I prefer to think of it as everytime Missle licks the screen, a tree dies....

      Hahahahahahahah!

      (Oh crap, I haven't fed Missile in weeks.)

      Missile...

      Missile?

      MISSSSSILLLLLLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        Well now Poopy has playmate :)

          Hahaha! You just reminded me of when my 3DS first arrived.

          Trying to do work and all I could hear was Elly in the background going...

          "POOPEE!"

          "PoooOPPPPEEE!"

        :'(

        NOOOOOO.

        Still, http://kramsdesign.com/misc/kotaku/missile-trust.jpg

    Nintendo is an incredibly arrogant company I have no time for. Look at how it responds to requests for comments on articles, or how it handles customer complaints, or even how it handles it's environmental responsibility. They sit there thinking they are on top of the world and they don't need to do these PR exercises. In a recent business dealing in Japan with one of their larger retailers, there was a requirement to get some more product information, the westerners in the room simply suggesting asking Nintendo for it, as that would be the norm here in Australia, the Japanese counterparts were shocked at the suggestion, you don't ask Nintendo for information, that isn't how things work. When a company can act like that I say f* 'em, I'll spend my money on something else.

    Hmm most comments here are anti greenpeace for being smug assholes demanding information. This fills me with joy.

    Microsoft just announced it is switching to 100% recycled paper at the corporate campus in Seattle.
    http://blog.seattlepi.com/microsoft/2011/04/20/microsoft-plans-switch-to-recycled-paper-at-puget-sound-offices/

    I like how Unicron and Alinos are using this as an opportunity to lampoon Greenpeace as if they're somehow out of their league in wanting some statistics from Nintendo that over a dozen other consumer electronics companies have provided, meanwhile Aaron tries to characterise an entire environmental organisation based on the fact that - wow, wait for it! - one guy he deals with in Perth is a smug douche. Gimme a fucking break, this community deserves better.

      They are out of their league if they're demanding this information because Nintendo doesn't have to even talk to Greenpeace if they want to, and Alinos makes an extremely good point. They've put Nintendo on the list knowing full well their data is wrong. They outright admit that they don't even know where to start telling them what to improve because they have no idea what Nintendo is doing. Besides making the list invalid, that also highlights that they're getting their information from the RP departments of these companies and don't have much fact checking power.

      The only reason Nintendo are on this list is because it's Greenpeace's only real way of forcing companies to respond. They know that if they put a company on the list in a terrible spot based on shoddy information that company might be shamed into giving them the actual information they need. Hell, that's the entire point of the list. Shame the companies into fighting for the top spot.

      I'm all for the environment but Greenpeace sucks. They use shame and guilt like weapons and open fire on pretty much everything that doesn't fit in with their extremely narrow points of view. They drag all their other political baggage into pretty much everything they do. They not only make being an environmentalist embarrassing on a personal level, but they make people hesitant to speak up on envrionmental issues in general for fear of becoming one of these whiney, self-rightious jerks.

      The enrivonmentalist/Greenpeace relationship actually reminds me a lot of the Australian Christian Lobby/Christians relationship.

        If someone's afraid to speak up for environmental issues because they don't want people to think of them as self-righteous then they obviously don't give a fuck about the environment. If that's a barrier big enough to keep you silent, sorry, you don't care. RE: your other points about Greenpeace in general, please provide examples of their extremely narrow point of view and their political baggage.

        If you read the report on Greenpeace's website, you'll see that while for some categories they fail to provide information, some of those categories are inherently about accessibility, disclosure and making information available to the customer: see the E-waste categories. In 15 of the assessable categories, Greenpeace lists "No information" in only two of those - hardly enough to invalidate the entire assessment procedure.

    I usually detest these organizations but I wish Nintendo would make rechargeable Wii remotes and Wii Balance boards etc. The number of batteries wasted over the years...

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