RIP: The Pledge of True Stewardship 2002-2010

[Middlebury, Vermont  12/2/2010]  The Pledge of True Environmental Stewardship, conceived in Seattle Washington in 2002, was laid to rest today.  The Pledge was designed to create a list of good, green companies which "promised" to do the right thing with "e-waste". After fighting a fierce battle with skeptics and true believers, too many good companies refused to sign, and too many eager companies signed (good or not).  The Pledge wasted away.
In 2002, the Pledge was released by Basel Action Network and Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition as a vehicle to shame electronics recyclers into abandoning bad exports.  It is recognized as the primary force stopping all kinds of exports from some companies, bad or not.   Other companies did whatever they wanted after signing the Pledge, and it eventually became meaningless.  Death was pronounced when the largest Pledge company admitted to being the largest exporter... to the same export avenue BAN accused in 2010.  
Certification services are being offered to the survivors.  The (estranged) family members are R2, E-Stewards, and people  you trust to do the right thing with your used electronics.  Enforceable civil contracts have accepted all outstanding liabilities.
For more information, visit 
"Monkeys Running the Environmental Zoo"

The Pledge Company did not necessarily do anything wrong.   Yes, they were using the exact same export broker as BAN, ETB, NRDC etc. targeted last February.  I am on record as looking at this exporter with an open mind.  WR3A audited the factory following the February accusations, and found the description of the factory to be downright libelous.

A lot of noise to preserve a naked Emporer?
Do the Watchdogs know what they are talking about?  
Or are they making this up as they go along?

After 7 years of telling Americans that the Pledge of True Stewardship was the gold standard for e-waste, now we are told that it was just a half measure, and that Certification is around the corner.

I am very disappointed to see Americans scramble to defend the assumption that overseas recyclers are primitive in all cases.  I am a strong critic of Toxics Along for the Ride, I allow only 22% exports from our company, and I am a staunch ally of export reform.  But the wild accusations made against all Techs of Color based on photographic examples of substandard practices has NEVER WORKED.   This goes back to "scraps to Japs", Americans bemoaning sales of scrap metal to Japan after WWII.   This excuse of the month to avoid Globalization will fail.

It will fail.
It will fail.
It will fail.


From E-Scrap News, the best news source in electronics recycling:

Sacramento Bee exposes California exporters

The Sacramento Bee has published a report that highlights the problem of e-waste exports in California – including exports by some signers of the Basel Action Network's Pledge of True Stewardship. The article places the volume of electronic scrap exported from California at between 160- and 210-million pounds per year and calls out firms it says publicly promote themselves as responsible processors, while at the same time exporting scrap electronics, or selling material to brokers who ship it overseas.

Fresno-based Electronics Recyclers International was held up in the story as an example of duplicitous processing. The company is a signee of the BAN Pledge and is pursuing e-Stewards Certification, but was accused in the article of selling "large volumes of e-waste" for export to Hong Kong as recently as 2008. In an update to the story, The Bee has posted several bills of lading and other documents from ERI.

"BAN confronted ERI at once," explained BAN Executive Director Jim Puckett in a public response to the article. "They explained that they did not fully understand the definitions for hazardous e-waste … [and] convinced us that these exports ceased in 2008 and that their business model today is entirely different. BAN sent a team to their facility to witness their current operation and make further inquiries regarding these operations, their ongoing transparency, their downstream vendors and their commitment to be audited and certified to our standard."
Both The Sacramento Bee article and BAN's response highlight the challenge of verifying that signers of the Pledge are remaining true to their word. Ultimately, these types of problems led to the development of the e-Stewards Certification standard, which enables the auditing and inspection of processors. The Pledge of True Stewardship is scheduled to be discontinued in August of 2011 and BAN says it has stopped registering companies as Pledge signers.


Anonymous said...

Okay okay, I'll bite! They didn't understand....
Are you flipping kidding me? That is the biggest bunch of huey I have ever heard.

Anonymous said...

So true. PR spin at its best! The bottom line is that ERI is the "poster child" for the e-Stewards (they are in a lot of BAN articles, examples and interviews together) and if they didn't spin this then they would have lost all credibility. Oh, wait I guess poisoning people because they "didn't understand" for those years is ok because now they do it differently now. Such a shame!!!

Anonymous said...

I don't actually think ERI poisoned anyone. I think what they did with the plastic etc. was probably fine. The point is that the Pledge amounts to a "promise not to lie"... How BAN could simultaneously deride R2 Certification while promoting a "pledge" was already a mystery, now it's officially a joke.

Anonymous said...

Well according to BAN yes they did. If you export hazardous materials you are poisoning the children, adults and the land in these countries. Just look at their site, videos and pictures. How can what ERI exported not fit into that category according to the BAN mission statement?

Anonymous said...

"I'm not at all happy that this took place," said Jim Puckett, executive director of the group. "If we had known about it at the time, we would have taken real serious action."

...Well I guess since ERI said they didn't understand and now have a different "business model" that their ends justifies the means. Wonder how much money from all that dumping went into their new recycling system???

Mike Enberg/BAN said...

BAN announced the sunset of the Pledge program months ago. BAN replaced the Pledge with a deeply robust standard requiring auditing and certification by accredited registrars only. This is the new e-Stewards Certification program, which ERI is undertaking, as are many other recyclers. If any of you "Anonymous commenters" would like more information – I am Mike, at BAN. Call me; I would love to tell you more.

Robin said...

Thanks Mike for contributing.

Anonymous said...

Oh.. you sunset the pledge months ago, ah that makes it all ok then.

Too funny.. so are your new set of fake standards more robust than the pledge because you tell us so ? This after BAN lost all credibility.

I guess you expect us to all be 'green' to believe it.

Lauren Roman said...

I joined BAN as a full-time employee in February of this year after spending 17 years in the e-recycling industry. I did work for dozens of e-recyclers throughout my career and I know the challenges and tough decisions that recyclers have to make every day toward responsible recycling.

I heartily invite anyone at all to meet with me and the BAN team and discuss your concerns. Before I joined BAN, there were 3 full time people at the helm. They not only succeeded in changing the industry, but literally, the world. The place teems with intelligence, passion and commitment toward one goal: stopping the export of hazardous waste to developing countries. And, the e-Stewards Standard for Responsible Recycling and Reuse goes further toward that goal than any other tool the industry.

We're not perfect, but our goals and objectives are crystal clear and never to be compromised.