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Company: Google
Subject: Lead-Acid Battery Recycling
Year: 2013
Sector: Electronics Retail/Manufacture
Lead Filer: Pax World Funds
Outcome: Vote: 7%

Reducing Health Hazards from Manufacturing and Recycling Lead Batteries

Whereas,

Google, as the owner and operator of a large number of data centers worldwide,[1] is both directly and indirectly exposed to the risks associated with health hazards from manufacturing and recycling lead batteries.

According to the New York Times, "most large data centers contain banks of huge, spinning flywheels or thousands of lead-acid batteries - many of them similar to automobile batteries - to power the computers in case of a grid failure as brief as a few hundredths of a second, an interruption that could crash the servers."[2]

The neurotoxic and developmental impacts of lead have been well-established for decades, leading to global action to eliminate lead in paint and gasoline. Lead battery production accounts for over 80 percent of global lead consumption and almost all used lead batteries are recycled,[3] regardless of whether they are used in the United States or elsewhere around the globe.

Due to a lack of government regulation, lead battery recycling outside the United States endangers public health. According to the New York Times, recently enacted environmental standards in the United States on lead pollution "make domestic recycling more difficult and expensive, but do not prohibit companies from exporting the work and the danger to countries where standards are low and enforcement is lax."[4]

As a result, there are reportedly high levels of community and occupational exposures around lead battery recycling plants in Mexico, a country that receives approximately 20 percent of the United States' used industrial and vehicle batteries.[5]

The proponents of this proposal believe that it is in Google's interest to track the fate of used lead batteries generated from operations and to ensure that batteries are properly recycled in appropriately licensed facilities that meet stringent environmental and occupational safety standards.

Resolved, that the Board of Directors report to shareholders, by December 1, 2013 on options for policies and practices Google can adopt to reduce the occupational and community health hazards from manufacturing and recycling lead batteries in the company's supply chain. Such a report would be prepared at reasonable cost and omitting confidential information such as proprietary or legally prejudicial data.

Supporting Statement

Proponents believe that a report should address how the company tracks shipments of used batteries to recycling facilities; how the company ensures that used batteries are not being shipped to recycling facilities with pollution and occupational safety controls that are less strict than those that would be applicable in the United States; and what mechanisms the company uses (such as company auditors, or third-party auditors or certifications) to assess supplier/recycler performance against environmental and occupational performance standards.

 


[1] http://www.google.com/about/datacenters/inside/locations/index.html

[2] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/23/technology/data-centers-waste-vast-amounts-of-energy-belying-industry-image.html?pagewanted=all

[3] http://www.ila-lead.org/lead-facts

[4] http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/09/science/earth/recycled-battery-lead-puts-mexicans-in-danger.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&

[5] http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/09/science/earth/recycled-battery-lead-puts-mexicans-in-danger.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&


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