Hewlett-Packard (HP) is the most socially and environmentally responsible of computer makers, while Packard Bell is the least. That's according to the international body for consumer organisations, ICRT (International Consumer Research & Testing). It looked into how much eight large-scale computer manufacturers have been taking responsibility for environmental and social issues.

Packard Bell performed worst, ending up at the bottom of the list. Poor transparency into how the company operates on social responsibility issues, no information on a comprehensive environmental policy, and a lack of co-operation, were the main reasons for ICRT's rating.

19th century Europe

Representatives from a number of domestic consumer organisations around Europe went to visit manufacturers' plants in China, the Philippines and Thailand as part of the study [in Swedish only]. It was found that there is a huge discrepancy between the companies' policies and the reality in which their factory workers live. None of the companies received a 'good' rating on this issue.

The general picture of the plants where our computers are made reminded the researchers of 19th Century Europe, when industrialism has just kicked off, the report stated. Those who make the computers have to work quickly, during long hours and for little pay. They are also subjected to dangerous substances on a daily basis. Several also employed children, the study found.

Dell, Apple and Sony

HP was the only company to receive an overall 'good' rating, the highest available. HP came out on top both in relation to the general environment in its factories, and the general transparency of the company.

Fujitsu-Siemens and Dell shared the second place in the ratings, while Apple and Sony came third and fourth respectively. Toshiba , Acer and Packard Bell all failed, mainly due to their lack of co-operation where social and environmental issues are concerned.

We could not get hold of a Packard Bell representative to comment at the time of writing.