Although the Switch’s end of life cycle is great as it can be reused and recycled, Nintendo’s human rights violations and vague supply chain brings down its rating greatly. Bold strides in social and environmental sustainability should be made. Because they are a big corporation, I did not expect to find much information or transparency about their product and practices and had to find 3rd party info.
The Switch requires several types of metals such as copper, silica, aluminum, zinc, iron, and gold for its printed circuit board, lithium-ion battery, AZ91D metal skeleton sheet, and copper heat pipe. The outer parts are made of plastic which can be derived from coal and oil. Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plastic is used for the Joy-Cons, buttons, and console. The screen is also plastic. The raw materials used all come from non-renewable sources or fossil fuels. Nintendo could look into using recycled plastic for their products. It is also unknown where the raw materials are sourced and how those communities are impacted.
The metals used to make the Switch must be mined which is energy intensive and harmful to the environment. They also have to be refined and soldered, which can be toxic due to the addition of chemicals. Air or water pollution could be a result of mining and assembling as well as emissions being released from the transportation of raw materials to the manufacturing facilities. Nintendo does not own any of their manufacturing facilities and these locations are also unknown. They should be more transparent about their sourcing and manufacturing processes.
The Nintendo of America Headquarters in Redmond, Washington was certified LEED Gold Status by the US Green Building Council in 2010. This means that Nintendo has put in effort to make sure their building is implementing green design, construction, operations, and maintenance solutions. They use recycled paper in their printers and copiers as well as for all the packaging for their retail shipments. Operation manuals and inserts use vegetable-based inks. In their 2017 CSR Report, the General Director for the Switch mentioned they wanted to make the packaging compact and reduce paper in the box. Their outbound freight carriers are certified through the EPA’s SmartWay program. The SmartWay program aims to make freight transportation more efficient and reduce freight transportation-related emissions, thus improving supply chain sustainability and helping companies decrease their costs, fuel and environmental impact. I’m not sure if this includes the transportation of raw materials to manufacturing locations.
Nintendo offers a free Take Back Program for recycling hardware, software, accessories, and rechargeable batteries. Their website has a recycling page. Consumers must email them to get a shipping label. They partner with a R2 certified national recycler. R2 certification “provides a common set of processes, safety measures, and documentation requirements for businesses that repair and recycle used electronics”. They are independently audited. Nintendo recycles close to 100% of any returned products or repair parts that can’t be reused. In 2017, Nintendo of America reused almost 2/3 of returned products in their original form and recycled 99% of the 200 tons of returned products (US, Canada, Latin America). This is really impressive as less raw materials are needed and their waste is minimized. They also offer repair services which can prolong the product’s use. The end of the Switch’s life cycle is much more environmentally friendly than the beginning and Nintendo seems to place more emphasis on recycling and reuse. In the 2019 CSR Report, the SDGs were mentioned and Nintendo said they are trying to reduce waste generation by promoting digital game sales instead of hard copy ones.
Nintendo makes sure to conduct on-site visits to their production partners to inspect and audit. Some of these sites are in China and Southeast Asia. They are also requiring first-tier sites to send written reports every year about the working conditions at each factory. In 2018, the Nintendo Human Rights Policy was established and added to their Code of Conduct and is part of training for employees. Nintendo also requires their production partners to adhere to their policies and guidelines prohibiting slavery, human trafficking, child labor or forced labor in sourcing, manufacturing and labor practices. However, there have been labor violations such as in 2012, 18 worker suicides occurred at Foxconn City when manufacturing the Wii. They also have been accused of using prison labor recently as well as being named for benefiting from Chinese forced labor camps along with other big tech corporations. Clearly, this is unacceptable and they should actually follow their own policies.
As of March 2019, there were 5944 employees for all of Nintendo of which only 18.2% were female and the rest male. This was barely an improvement over 2018 as it was 18.0% in the 2018 CSR Report. This is a huge gender gap and hopefully Nintendo will have greater initiatives to balance this. All employees have subsidized transportation options like free bus/subway passes and employees have free use of a Zipcar at their corporate office. They give paid time off to employees for non-work related injuries and family reasons (new child, caring for immediate family). There is also a workplace safety program to assess and mitigate risk as well as a free CPR/1st Aid training program for employees. Nintendo also provides subsidized meals/snacks, free access to a 24/7 nurse helpline, a tuition reimbursement program, comprehensive retirement programs, and on-site fitness center with free group exercise classes. Nintendo provides 19 electric car charging stations at their corporate facilities. They also actively promote composting programs wherever possible as well as the recycling of styrofoam, aluminum cans, plastic bottles, paper, glass, cardboard and batteries. Their Procurement department reviews all the materials they buy to ensure that they select the most environmentally friendly products including office and janitorial supplies.
Nintendo of America makes donations to charitable organizations and has an Employee Matching Gifts Program where Nintendo will match an employee’s money or product. Some organizations include United Way of King County, Starlight Children’s Foundation, and Boys & Girls Clubs of Bellevue.