Buying computers, displays and other IT products is a necessity for most organizations — but these purchases also involve major sustainability risks. To avoid contributing to serious issues such as harmful emissions, labor law violations or other health and safety risks for workers, traditional aspects such as price and performance must be balanced with environmental and social risk.

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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Supply chain risks are always a major challenge in the procurement process. The increasingly complex IT supply chain has opened access to a wide range of inexpensive yet high-performing computers and mobile devices. But IT hardware is a risky business at all phases of the life cycle — from raw materials extraction to end user and beyond. Purchasers need to handle the sustainability risks from a life cycle perspective.

Stephen Fuller, TCO Development’s expert on social responsibility, links low prices to risks: “Thousands of workers are involved in an IT device’s production. A major reason why the price and value remain low is that these complex supply chains make it difficult to manage human rights risks and that they contain a high concentration of cheap labor,” he says.