I work as a Quality Manager at TCO Development, which means that I review the independent verification system of TCO Certified to ensure that test results are accurate and comparable. I’m also part of the criteria development team, with special focus on environmentally responsible manufacturing, user health and safety and product performance.
On December 1, we will launch TCO Certified, generation 9 after having spent more than 30,000 hours on analysis, development and design of the new criteria and verification methods. From my perspective, two of the highlights in this new generation are linked to socially responsible manufacturing. Firstly, we expand worker protections further up the supply chain, beyond final assembly factories to where the components are made. Secondly, in order to protect factory workers from hazardous substances, we also expand our system for safer chemicals to include process chemicals. (You can read more about how TCO Certified can help you take control over the unruly chemical situation in a recent blog post by my colleague Stephen Fuller.)
I’m also excited to see what we will achieve with our new sustainability performance indicators. We introduced this system in the last generation of TCO Certified, and started by gathering data on post-consumer recycled plastic content, product weight, energy consumption and battery cycles. Now, we add more than 40 new, independently verified indicators, to encourage the IT industry to go beyond the already comprehensive criteria in TCO Certified, and help purchasers make more informed decisions when purchasing their products.
So, the launch day is getting closer and to me it feels like the end of (a fun and exciting) marathon. To keep pushing the IT industry in the right direction, a new generation of TCO Certified is released every three years. The development work never stops. Me and my colleagues in the development team continually monitor sustainability challenges. About two years before we release a new generation, we thoroughly analyze and compare all these challenges to see where and how we can make the biggest impact.
We then discuss challenges and possible solutions with a broad scope of stakeholders including representatives from the academic world, purchasers and other representatives from purchasing organizations, and the IT industry. At this stage, we have decided on a number of focus areas, and need to find the right criteria level where we challenge the IT industry and drive sustainability but at the same time, avoid setting criteria that are impossible to meet. Otherwise our requirements will have no impact at all since the IT brands will not even try to fulfill them.
Once we have designed the first version of the criteria and verification methods, we publish a draft of the new generation. All stakeholders are welcome to comment and give their input during a two month period. We then review the comments and apply necessary changes before we release a new draft, open up for comments, and make adjustments one more time.
After the two drafts, we publish the final version of the criteria document. Now, IT brands can apply for product certification according to the new generation. TCO Certified, generation 9 was published in June, 2021, and the interest from the IT industry has been large. The first certified products will be presented at our launch event on December 1.
I sometimes get asked if I can suggest a sustainable IT product. Unfortunately, I can’t because there are no truly sustainable IT products on the market. They all have a negative impact on the environment and social factors in the supply chain. Still, some products are much, much better than others and the choice you make is important.
For a typical laptop, around 85% of greenhouse gas emissions are generated before the product is even used for the first time. In addition to this, natural resources are consumed, and the production is linked to social risk. Therefore, you should choose a laptop that is built to last, and then keep it for a long time. Give it love, upgrade and repair it. And if you want a product that meets all the 200+ pages of environmental and social criteria that I have helped develop, make sure that it carries TCO Certified.