lenovoLenovo, the HK-based PC manufacturer, has once again been selected as a constituent stock of the 2013 Hang Seng Corporate Sustainability Index (HSCSI). 

This is the fourth time the world’s largest PC maker, which acquired IBM’s PC operations back in 2005, has been included in the index and, according to the company, this demonstrates its “continued focus on sustainability and social responsibility”.

OF course, its relatively easy for  a hi-tech manufacturer to stand out in CSR terms. Compared with paint manufacturing or gold mining, for example, the industrial processes involved in  manufacturing PCs are a relatively benign in environmental terms and the campus-like workplaces of the hi-tech industry are about as far removed from sweatshops as you can get.

Oops. I take that back. According to latest Chinese media reports, hi-tech contract manufacturer Foxconn is using forced student labor to assemble Sony PS4 consoles. And of course, Apple has repeatedly been acused of turning a blind eye to perceived abuses of its Chinese contract manufacturers.

These issues can backfire seriously on western brands.  Lenovo when it acquired IBM’s PC operations bought just a US business but also the brand — the iconic ThinkPad line of laptops — and all the brand  values. For this reason, today it behaves more like a US company in the way it actively promotes  its commitment to CSR as a marketing tool. There’s a sound business reason for doing so, of course.

Many businesses and organisations that buy PCs in the US  will take “soft” factors such as sustainability and social responsibility into account when deciding to award contracts to suppliers.

Some critics see CSR certification processes and indices such as the HSCSI as boxticking exercises that don’t go far enough.  There’s no doubt a grain of truth in that argument.  However. its good to see that Lenovo is  committed to operating ethically and promoting corporate citizenship and sustainability in all its business activities.