Brother makes huge claims about sustainability while creating an e-waste apocalypse. Most technology companies are engaged in this same bait & switch. Your smart phone is one of the biggest contributors to global warming. If you (and everyone else) refused to purchase a new smart phone for five years, there is a good chance you could dramatically reduce global warming. Apple, trying to push consumers to purchase new items every year, is one of the largest contributors to climate change, it’s just hidden. Carbon neutral isn’t green.
E-waste is massive environmental problem
According to some studies the carbon emissions from e-waste spiked 53% in the past six years. Back in 2015 a study found that 81% of electronics goes from our pockets/shelves directly to a landfill. That fact alone is an ecological time bomb. At some point that stuff is going to leech out into the groundwater. There is no landfill liner that will last forever.
Most of you probably don’t know that those black plastic take-out food containers are made from recycled e-waste. There is currently quite a bit of concern and study with respect to synthetic antioxidants found in e-waste and what harm they pose to humans. When you hear “antioxidants” you think “good thing” but it appears these aren’t. E-waste also seems to give us an unhealthy dose of “forever chemicals.” Even if you couldn’t give a hoot about climate change, you’ve all heard the EPA is moving to limit toxic forever chemicals in drinking water. Forever chemicals are even in the paint they use on those windmills everyone wants to claim as “green energy” but that is veering off track.
Government crackdown on planned obsolescence needed
The vast majority of e-waste comes from low quality products and planned obsolescence. In the 1960s you bought a television and hoped it would last 30 years. Today you buy a television and pray to God you get 5 years. Either it dies or the broadcasting standard changes. The cheaper the television the more likely it dies.
Apple has already been busted for slowing down iPhones in batterygate. There is no reality where Apple should be able to make a sustainability claim after that. How about changing the connector for the charger just to sell you a new charger with your new phone?
The FTC has already been tapped to crack down on glued in batteries. Ear buds and other blue-tooth devices have glued in batteries that can only be recharged N times. After that they end up in a landfill and you buy new. They already enforce where batteries come from.
Bet you didn’t know this, but the FTC already enforces e-waste laws for personal information disposal. If you have personal information of others on a hard drive you have to drill a hole (or more) in it before sending to recycling or a landfill.
I’ve done it for my own drives. We have an old drill press. I hold the drive with a pair of vice grips and bore 2-3 holes in it. There is also a class of document shredder for destroying CD-ROM and DVD media. Companies pay huge dollars for such disposal services to comply with FTC enforced laws. You can’t just throw an old backup tape in the trash. If it has customer information on it, you have to destroy it first.
The current trend in technology and consumer electronics circles is to commit sustainability fraud. This stops investors from shunning your company. ESG is the acronym. Environmental, Social, and corporate Governance. Most people don’t dig too deep when researching. That is what Apple is relying on when they put out PR like this:
People just have to stop and think. If Apple is pushing you to buy a new phone, iPod, laptop, tablet, desktop, etc., every year, there is nothing environmentally stable or sound in the business model. See above for e-waste recycling, forever chemicals, etc.
Brother touts its sustainability and environmental awareness and pulls similar shit. There is no tech or consumer product company producing a product which should be allowed to make an ESG claim or contained within an ESG fund.
My direct experience with Brother ESG bullshit
On my family farm we have a small trucking company started by my father and now is basically my brother driving a truck when not farming. Way back when we had to have a separate printer and fax machine because fax machines all took thermal paper.
You kids don’t remember that far back. A time when we only had dot-matrix printers and thermal faxes. As time went on, all-in-one ink-jet machines came out. These had all of the problems ink-jet printers have, including the massive expense of those cartridges that only print a 100 pages or so. Finally we got business class all-in-one laser printers with toner cartridges that would last 1000-7000 pages.
Our fax died
Well, not very long ago, the Brother all-in-one we had died. We couldn’t replace it with the exact same model and use up our toner cartridges because that would violate planned obsolescence. We don’t print as many invoices as we used to when dad was alive and driving, but we still needed both the printer and fax capabilities. Ended up getting this unit.
We haven’t had this unit long enough to replace even one toner cartridge. Please note that it has email capability.
My Lexmark wanted a cartridge I didn’t have
A month or so ago my Lexmark wanted a toner cartridge I didn’t have. For several years it had been producing low quality output because it was just shot. It printed many drafts of my award winning technical book series and novels and had just hit end of life. I used it in limited capacity with the promise of “once I run out of cartridges I will replace the printer.” I had a red cartridge, but it wanted cyan and the non-generic price was $140. For $650 at Staples I could get this
Got rid of the land line in my office long ago. This model had iFax. Just to round out your data points.
You will note there is only $150 difference between these printers.
iFax part 1
I went with Faxlogic for my office. There were a few fits and configuration issues, but all is good now. Basically iFax just sends and receives email with the fax content as a TIFF attachment. I went to all of the bother setting up my own account on my own email server to test iFax out, then had to redo everything to use iFax. Minor annoyance, nothing more.
Be sure to configure iFax to delete email even on failure. If you don’t, even if they clean the server off, your printer will keep trying to pull down that one failure. iFax has some kind of bug where it keeps retrying a failed fax even if the message is no longer on the server. I had one that came through before we found iFax currently only supports the TIFF format. It supported TIFF and JPEG previously.
iFax part 2
After such rousing success I spoke with my brother and we decided we should get rid of the land line for the trucking fax. Keep in mind I had already verified that printer could send email. I needed to be able to transfer the phone number to iFax (which could be done) because quite a few places had that number listed as our fax. We were just looking to get out from under $60+/month for a land line that kept needing service.
Once I filled everything out FaxLogic reached out to me to say that printer doesn’t support iFax, I would need to get one of their boxes. Well, I went to Brother support. In no uncertain terms was there an iFax upgrade for the MFC-L3770CDW. Now you know what originated this blog post.
Investment funds need to shun Brother
This landfill fodder is a result of blind greed and a completely bogus claim of environmental sustainability from Brother (BRTHY). I’ve spend over 30 years in IT, the last decade of which was in embedded systems, mostly medical devices. This printer already has the ability to send email. I’m not saying Brother has to add iFax for free, but there is no hardware requirement. We are talking about a firmware update I would gladly pay $50 for that would keep a less than year old printer out of a landfill. We haven’t even needed to replace a toner cartridge yet!
Blind greed is why this firmware update doesn’t exist. Some little MBA put together a spreadsheet proving how much more money they would make without offering iFax for this printer. The way you prove that is by leaving off all of the lines that don’t support your conclusion. Thank you Al Gore.
Upper management will finally take a big whiff when every mutual fund and money manager dumps BRTHY. Blind greed will be replaced by the abject fear of Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
FTC needs to bitch-slap Brother
This e-waste apocalypse is being created by blind greed so the FTC needs to hand out a multi-million dollar fine big enough to dimple quarterly numbers for at least a year. Between that and money managers dumping the stock, upper management might get a clue.
Brother (BRTHY) cannot possibly qualify as an ESG stock with this business practice. They still have a widget based mentality and that has to change. To qualify as an ESG stock you need to have a service based mentality. You sell them one printer which lasts 15-20 years then sell software upgrades/new features over that time frame. Yes, you also sell toner cartridges but the firmware is how you earn sustaining income.
You can’t be Apple (APPL) pushing consumers to throw last year’s model in the landfill and purchase this year’s model. Just how many perfectly functioning Brother printers are headed to a landfill near you today because someone wanted to get rid of their land line? Your grandchildren will be drinking the toxic water that results from this business model.