Lenovo ThinkPad T420 Is First Laptop To Get UL Environment's Gold Certification

Underwriters Laboratories’ UL Environment group — which validates claims, through lab testing, that a company or its product is environmentally sustainable, and helps thwart “greenwashing” — today reported that its first-ever Gold level Sustainable Product Certification (SPC) for a laptop was given to the forthcoming, Lenovo ThinkPad T420.

According to a UL press statement, the SPC Gold certification indicates “a product has met the most stringent and prestigious of three levels of compliance in the industry-wide sustainability standard for laptops, IEEE 1680.1…including reduction or elimination of environmentally sensitive materials in product and packaging, energy conservation, end-of-life management and corporate environmental practices.”

In 2007, Lenovo began formal Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reporting. In 2008, the company set a voluntary target of improving its carbon efficiency by 10 percent between 2007 and 2012.

According to Lenovo’s 2009-2010 CSR report, the most recent available, the company has been focusing on reduction of non-recyclable materials in its product lines across the board, making its products from enterprise to consumer fully recyclable, and reducing the amount of energy its products and operations use. Its initiatives to drive customers to recycle, rather than dump their spent electronics in a landfill, have been least successful in the Americas, and most successful in markets in Europe the Middle East and Africa (EMEA).

The company has faced other environmental challenges, despite attaining Gold certifications from UL, and EPEAT on some of its products. Lenovo’s position on the Greenpeace Guide to Greener Electronics fell from top spot in the mid-2000s to fourteenth in 2010.

Here’s part of what Greenpeace had to say about the company’s overall environmental results and commitment:

“[Lenovo] remains encumbered by a penalty point imposed for backtracking on its commitment to eliminate PVC vinyl plastic and brominated flame retardants (BFRs) in all its products by the end of 2009.

[The company] made significant progress on three energy criteria; it now supports the need for global emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) to peak by 2015, with a 30 percent reduction in emissions from industrialised countries by 2020 and a 50 percent reduction by 2050, relative to 1990; it has set its own targets for reducing GHG emissions, aiming to eliminate or offset its scope 1 emissions by 100 percent by April 2011 and achieve absolute reductions in scope 2 emissions, with progressive targets up to 20 percent by April 2020, relative to 2008/09; it also reports the percentage of its products that meet the latest Energy Star standards, with many of its products exceeding the standard.”

In light of the company’s track record — some good, some bad when it comes to sustainability — will certifications like this one from UL Environment help Lenovo win environmentally conscious customers?

Update: Until Lenovo can get back to us with further details on their new Thinkpad T420, here’s the company’s video press release about it, corny electric guitars and all…