Members of the makeITfair and PC global campaign are protesting against degrading working conditions in the global IT industry and unresolved environmental problems in the production and disposal of IT gadgets.

“Energy efficiency and innovative IT solutions for reduced CO2 emissions are important activities, but not enough to make the IT industry green and fair,” says Cornelia Heydenreich from Germanwatch, one of the German members of makeITfair. “The social and environmental implications of the whole life cycle of IT gadgets, from the sourcing of minerals through to the production and the disposal of IT goods must be taken into account.”

Sarah Bormann from the NGO WEED is the project leader of the PC global initiative, which is looking at the environmental and economic impact of IT. She says: “Today’s action raises awareness about the environmental costs of IT production, which are unequally distributed in the world. Residents and workers in developing countries, where mining of resources and the production and disposal of IT gadgets takes place, are unfairly affected. If the IT industry truly wants to talk about Green IT at CeBIT today, they also have to think about the impact their industry is making on people and the environment in poor countries.”

The global electronics industry consumes a growing proportion of the world’s precious and rare metals. In South Africa, local communities have been forced to leave their farmland without proper compensation to make way for the growing number of platinum mines supplying the computer industry. “The studies from makeITfair point out direct links between problematic African mines and component manufacturers in Asia that supply many of the biggest electronics brands,” says Cornelia Heydenreich.

The new documentary ‘Digital handcraft. Chinese computer factories for the world market’, which will be published soon by WEED, reveals terrible working conditions in IT production: long working hours, low wages, no trade union representation and health problems are the most pressing issues in this industry. “The short life cycles of IT hardware are not only causing a dramatic e-waste problem, but also precarious working conditions with extreme overtime and imminent mass dismissals,” says Sarah Bormann.

WEED and makeITfair are urging electronics companies to take responsibility for working conditions and environmental impacts within the whole IT supply chain. We are calling for the production of truly fair products to be presented at next year’s CeBIT.