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TCO Development has announced the expansion of its worldwide sustainability certification for IT products to include smartphones. The new certification will provide smartphone buyers and users with an easier way to choose devices that meet criteria for socially responsible manufacturing, minimal environmental impact as well as ergonomic design.

For over 20 years TCO Development has pioneered advancements in sustainable IT through it environmental and quality certifications for computers, displays and other IT products intended for professional use. Known around the world, the TCO Certified designation has helped business and public sector buyers choose IT products that feature sustainability attributes such as low environmental impact, superior ergonomic design and reduced energy consumption. Several criteria included in TCO Certified over the years have later been adopted into laws and regulations throughout the world.

In a natural next step in advancing sustainable IT, TCO Development is now planning the introduction of the smartphones certification. With their PC-like power and functionality and a worldwide annual sales growth around 50 percent, smartphones represent the fastest growing of all IT product categories. An estimated one billion smartphones will be sold during 2014.

But this explosive growth also brings with it new sustainability challenges that must be addressed. Smartphones contain hazardous substances and are replaced much more frequently than a computer for example. In the US the average user replaces their device every 18 months, and the recycling rate is alarmingly low. Resulting e-waste is a huge environmental and human health problem. In addition, a large proportion of smartphone manufacturing occurs in factories where working conditions and wages are sub-standard.

The focus areas of the certification will be to drive greater social responsibility into the manufacturing of smartphones as well as reduce their impact on the environment and human health. Examples of criteria include a manufacturer commitment to improved working conditions and compliance with international labour conventions as well as the minimization of hazardous substances such as heavy metals, beryllium and phthalates. Other key criteria eliminate the use of nickel – a common allergen – on smartphone surfaces, as well as require that a headset be supplied with the device. The smartphone should also be equipped with an easily replaceable battery and meet several criteria for display performance.

“This new certification will provide public and private sector organizations with a real opportunity to help bring about a more sustainable IT environment, says Niclas Rydell, Director of Product Certification at TCO Development. “When buyers demand that their smartphones are certified for sustainability, this sends a vital message to brands and manufacturers that these environmental and social issues are important. Organizations around the world are deepening their commitment to sustainability in all aspects of their business, including the products they purchase. This certification will provide an extra assurance to buyers that the smartphones they choose can also meet their sustainability goals.”

You will note in TCO Certified Smartphones, that we have decided not to include any criteria as regards the SAR-value. While we still choose to monitor developments in this area, we rely on the generally accepted advice to recommend the use of a headset when using the smartphone for communication.

The new certification criteria set is available in draft format for public and stakeholder comment during April. Stakeholders include buyers, users, industry, environmental and CSR-experts among others. An estimated publication date for the final criteria is around mid-May. At that time, the certification will be available for brands to certify their smartphone devices.

Toward sustainable IT products

The organization behind the sustainability certification TCO Certified is TCO Development. Our vision is that all IT products should have an environmentally and socially sustainable life cycle. Science-based criteria and independent verification of compliance help us track and accelerate progress over time.


Dennis Svärd, Global PR Manager
Mobile: +46 (0) 704 804 094