A robust ecolabel or certification makes sure that social and environmental issues are found and solved. However, banning bad practices does not necessarily lead to positive change. To avoid a situation where restricted behaviors are replaced with those that are even worse, we need to guide the industry toward safer, fairer alternatives.

This text is part of our latest report, Impacts and Insights: Navigating the Sustainable IT Revolution – The critical role of independent verification. The report helps buyers worldwide accurately verify social and environmental aspects of their purchases.

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IT products may contain a number of harmful substances, and workers in the IT industry are exposed to hazardous substances such as solvents in cleaning and assembly processes. The majority of these substances are not assessed for environmental or human health hazards. Also, working conditions in factories are an ongoing problem. Continuing risk areas include health and safety protection, forced labor, and excessive working hours. Addressing these challenges requires a number of measures, including product testing and factory audits — and of course it is important to ban elements that pose sustainability risks.

However, during our near 30 years in sustainable IT, we have seen that banning what’s bad is not enough. It easily turns into a game of cat-and-mouse, where what’s restricted is replaced by something else — which can be just as harmful, or worse. Legislation lags behind, so you need to be one step ahead.