Clare Hobby, Global Purchaser Engagement Director at TCO Development talks about how TCO Certified contributes to more circular management of IT products.

This case is part of the Circular Electronics Day 2021 best practices series. Multiple organizations stand behind this initiative that takes place on January 24 with the aim to encourage organizations and consumers to take a more responsible approach to electronics.

What is TCO Certified?

TCO Certified is the sustainability certification for IT products. Purchasers around the world use TCO Certified just like an ecolabel, but what makes TCO Certified unique is that we include environmental and supply chain responsibility connected to the computers and other IT devices you buy. So you’re not only reducing environmental impact, but also ensuring fair working conditions where the products are made.

How does TCO Certified contribute to circularity?

Circularity is all about keeping products and materials in use longer and preventing waste. We also need to remember that e-waste is still the fastest growing waste stream in the world. So, beginning in 2018 we included a series of criteria aimed at extending the life of the products you buy and also influencing product design for easier refurbishment and reuse. It’s important to remember that IT products also contain embedded value, meaning these products contain valuable materials that can be reused. So our message is clear — use your IT longer, and when you’re done using it, make sure someone else can. Whatever you do, don’t trash it!

What are the biggest things you have done so far when it comes to pushing for more sustainable solutions for IT products?

We’ve been able to create a lot of awareness around what circular actually IT is and how purchasers can have their highest impact. In our conversations with buyers, there’s been a distinct shift from seeing circularity as “all about recycling”, to wider adoption of longer product use as a core strategy. IT products are made to last, so longer use is the best thing we can do. I’m also really excited to see the growing interest in refurbished and remanufactured products as a good option for many organizations.

What will you be working on moving forward when it comes to pushing for more circular electronics?

Sustainability is a long term commitment to continuous improvement, and IT is constantly evolving, so we update our criteria every three years, which is pretty ambitious. Right now, we’re working on our next generation, which we plan to launch in late 2021. As part of this work, pushing for greater circularity will continue to be a core focus.

In practical terms, what this means is that we will continue to move forward with more ambitious criteria aimed at extending the life of IT products, improving recyclability, and reducing e-waste. There will also be new sustainability performance indicators (SPI) added to help purchasing organizations make informed choices and measure their sustainability impact connected to the certified computers and other devices they buy.

What are your key recommendations for buyers and users of electronics in order to manage them in a m