Boycott E-Stewards Recyclers?

Here's an excerpt from the latest press release from Basel Action Network, which has announced that R2 (Responsible Recycler Certification) is accepted by E-Stewards, but not sufficient:
"BAN created the e-Stewards Standard after the R2 Standard failed to prohibit exports of hazardous electronic waste to developing countries"
Jim Puckett, BAN, sells E-Steward Certification, 
receives % of gross from E-Steward Companies

"After the R2 Standard FAILED"?  E-Stewards rolled out before R2 ever went to press.  R2 has not even been accused of anything specific except not being the choice of BAN, a choice BAN made before R2 went to print.   Now even "not being the choice of BAN" is in question, as BAN's announcement was that it was adapting R2 standards...

In any case, the studies have been released... even non-certified exports to Africa were 85% reused.  Just how bad could R2 certification be?

For 10 years, the non-profit NGO BAN said that 80% of the goods exported to Africa were e-waste burned in terrible conditions... the conditions prior to either R2 or E-Stewards Standards.  They showed us pictures of the kids in the dump, working on "allegedly" imported computer junk.  They said that the contract refurbishing (white box re-manufacturing) factories were "poisoning people" and "illegal"...

Now, seems it ain't so.

  • The exports were not 80% bad.  They were 85% Good  Source:  UN and Basel Secretariat
  • The factories were not poisoning people.  The pollution came from upstream, and refurbishing has no toxic processes.
  • The factories were not illegal, under the Basel Convention (BAN clarified they meant the "Basel Ban Amendment" to change the Basel Convention, a hypothetical future crime).
  • Material burned in African dumps was generated by Africans, in Chinese dumps was generated by Chinese... you don't reduce dumping by stopping refurbishing.
  • African refurbishers prefer to refurbish newer rich people stuff not junky African stuff.
It was obvious to anyone with boots on the ground that BAN was after money.  This was a shakedown of OEMs, Recyclers, and Africans by a small group in Seattle.

The group walked away from R2 for NONE of the reasons they state.  The timeline is wrong.  They formed a new standard for one reason, and one reason only.

E-STEWARDS MUST PAY A PERCENTAGE OF THEIR GROSS ANNUAL REVENUE TO BASEL ACTION NETWORK!  It's textbook pay to play.  If it turns out the standards are not dissimilar, who wants to pay millions of dollars to buy Jim Puckett a new car?  Jim has no choice but to say that the other standard is "poisoning people", because if he cannot sell that, why would anyone pay him money?

The industry isn't stupid.  They see that BAN E-Stewards label is not delivering value compared to EPA R2 Certification.  Morever, the clients and generators (the ones issuing the contracts) smartly rely on civil law (the contract says do it right -- or we sue, we don't "de-certify")... the certification isn't the end of the rainbow after all.

So the complex of shredding (high capital) industries, which don't export "intact units", are forming their own group which BAN has no control over.   The Coalition for American Electronics Recycling has a lot of "E-Stewards" in it, and it's growing because it's adding big companies that have one problem with E-Stewards - the mandate to pay Basel Action Network a percentage of the company income for life.

This is still a textbook marketing mistake.  If McDonald's accuses Burger King of serving poison, hamburger sales plumment... people buy KFC.  But this group is not making money by selling a certification, it is a one-shot at getting legislation to do what negative campaigning has failed to do.   And in the process, they are forming a group which has distanced itself from the pay-to-play Ayatollahs in Seattle.
When McDonald's certification attacks Burger King certification, the marketplace will devalue certification generally.   The only people who benefit are the advertising agencies.  This is BAN's role.  
So no, I would not call for a boycott of E-Stewards, it's an attack on certification product, and that will punish ISO, R2, RIOS, WR3A, FairTrade, all due diligence efforts will suffer.  But I do question why anyone would want a standard which primarily differs in only two ways:  it costs more money, and it promotes itself through a false campaign against brown people.

This is the beginning of the end for BAN.  Sure, they announced that a couple of California counties signed up.  But not only did R2 not go away, E-Stewards is splintering into an industry group which doesn't pay BAN and doesn't give BAN a veto.  I like one thing about CEAM.  They are starting to put some space between professional companies and the witch-hunting, discredited accuser.  I would like now for TechSoup, Refurbishers, FreeGeek, and others to do the same.

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