Google promises carbon neutral supply chain by next year

Google wants to lower the carbon footprint of shipments, a new effort in the war on e-waste. (Getty Images)

Google pledged on Monday to include recycled materials in 100% of its consumer Made by Google products starting in 2022. Those products include Pixel smartphones, Google Home smart speakers and Nest thermostats.

The company also said 100% of device orders shipping to and from Google customers will be carbon neutral by next year. That means no net release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which involves working with shipping partners to lessen emissions.

It could be something as simple as making more shipments by air instead of by ocean, the company said, or investing in carbon offset projects like animal waste management systems.

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“We require the highest ethical standards throughout our supply chain and are working to promote meaningful improvements in the communities in which we operate,” the company said in a statement.

“We’re always looking for better ways to protect workers and hold suppliers more accountable,” Google said on a sustainability web site. That includes safer chemistry for healthy manufacturing and fighting child labor in the mines of Manono, an island of Samoa, Google said.

In an earlier report, Google noted that most electronics contain tantalum, tin, tungsten and/or gold. “These metals can be sourced from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and adjoining countries where a decades-long war is being waged and where various groups are fighting to control mineral trade. We believe it is essential to establish in-region conflict-free sources of these metals to protect human rights.”

In another earlier statement on modern slavery, Google said it is committed to ensuring that modern slavery is not taking place in their supply chains and business operations. The definition of modern slavery includes recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing or obtaining a person for compelled labor or commercial sex acts through force, fraud or coercion. It is estimated to involved 46 million victims today, Google noted.

Also, all flagship products that launch next year and beyond will have a published environmental report.

In one example of an environmental report, Google noted that the Pixelbook has a mercury-free LED-backlit display, arsenic-free glass and a power adapter with a high efficiency rating. The battery is a lithium ion polymer that is free of cadmium, lead and mercury. The total greenhouse gas emissions are listed as 200 kilograms of CO2 over a four-year lifecycle.

By 2023, Google Nest has made a commitment to install 1 million energy-saving thermostats in homes that need them. The company is working with Philips Hue and Whirlpool on that commitment, called Power Project.

Large electronics companies like Google have struggled with ways to limit the environmental cost of electronics, many that include rare earth elements that could be harder to acquire in coming years. Apple has created a research lab in Texas to research ways to recycle electronics.

In 2016, 44 million metric tons of e-waste were created globally, but just 20% of that was recycled, according to the United Nations.

RELATED: Crews recycle phones to craft 5,000 Tokyo Olympics medals

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