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In a new report, IT product certification TCO Certified reveals both progress and persistent challenges in manufacturing conditions in the electronics industry.

The report, Impacts and Insights, measures the 2016 effects of new criteria aimed at broadening brand owner responsibility for supply chain working conditions, conflict minerals initiatives and inclusion of safer chemicals. The current generation of TCO Certified, launched in November 2015, places greater overall responsibility for product and factory compliance on brand owners.

A case study of 16 brand owners shows improved working conditions in factories manufacturing certified products compared with 2013. Improvements were observed in areas such as discrimination and freedom of association.

Sören Enholm, CEO of TCO Development, comments: “We’re really pleased to see these improvements in important areas like discrimination and forced labor in the factories where certified products are made. However, an issue that keeps coming up is excessive overtime. While we’ve seen some improvements in 2016, it’s clearly something that will demand our continued attention moving forward”.

The electronics supply chain is very complex. “Brand owners are best positioned to take overall responsibility for social and environmental sustainability, and the follow-up from TCO Development shows positive effects when they are held accountable for this”, says Bjorn-Erik Lonn, Chair Global Ecolabelling Network, GEN.

The new generation has also brought about a paradigm shift in use of hazardous chemicals in IT products. The health and environmental effects of most chemicals used today are unknown. To provide a way forward, TCO Certified now only accepts flame retardants that have been independently benchmarked as safer alternatives.

Both IT purchasers and i