The maquiladora electronics industry on Mexico’s northern border and the environment

  • Claudia SchatanEmail author
  • Liliana Castilleja
Original Paper


The electronic sector, in particular, the computing industry, has become an increasing concern because of the environmental impact of its products throughout their life cycle. The United States, Europe and Japan as the greatest consumers of electronic goods have given special attention to this issue. The fast computer obsolescence and its difficult confinement, because of the hazardous substances contained, have required a special effort of technical innovation. Nevertheless, this effort seems to respond mainly to the standards required by the countries in which these goods are produced, consumed and confined, which are radically different in developed and developing countries. Though an important part of the production process (assembling) is done in developing countries, little attention has been paid to the environmental quality at this production stage. This study examines the environmental problems and strategy of the electronic assembly industry in the three northern border cities of Mexico. Almost half of 200 electronic maquiladora enterprises surveyed had not undertaken any active environmental policy and there was a limited environmental standards enforcement. Evidence was found that the firms that had operated for a longer period of time had better chances of taking better care of the environment. Environmental firm policies became weaker as one descended from the head office to the subsidiaries and then to their suppliers. It is also found that some transnational corporations operate with double standards in Mexico and thus strong national policies on environmental standards in Mexico are required to change this practice.


Electronic maquiladora industry Environment International environmental standards Mexican border cities Pollution 



Gross Domestic Product


North American Free Trade Agreement


European Union


Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corporation


Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive


Restriction on Hazardous Substances Directive




Polychlorinated Biphenyls


General Law of Ecological Equilibrium and Environmental Protection in Mexico


Office of the Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection in Mexico



The opinions expressed in this paper are those of the authors and do not reflect the views of the institution where they are employed. We are indebted to Pablo Sauma’s valuable technical advice in the analysis of the survey on maquiladoras and to ZhongXiang Zhang and an anonymous referee for thoughtful comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.International Trade and Industry UnitEconomic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL)MexicoMexico
  2. 2.School of EconomicsUniversity of NottinghamNottinghamUK

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