Sustainability aspects are becoming more and more important and more companies are implementing strategies for their operations and products. The IT-industry has many challenges when it comes to sustainable development and its product design, production, use and end-of-life of their products.
The fact that Apple is leaving the EPEAT register because their products can’t be recycled in a way that is environmentally acceptable is one example. Nevertheless the IT-industry needs to take measures. To produce one computer uses about 1.500 kg of water, human rights are violated in the production, the level and handling of the world’s e-waste can’t be neglected. It is a good sign that Apple is sincere and withdraws the products from the EPEAT registration when they can’t meet the standards.
Third party certification a security for the purchaser
For a purchaser or consumer when choosing between products one must weigh each product in terms of its different qualities against the price tag. A sustainability certification like TCO Certified can be seen as one of those qualities, just like design, battery life or brightness, for example. It increases the value of a product by providing a certain level of security to the purchaser, that the brand normally could not provide in other ways (for example, via test reports published on their website). EPEAT can be seen as another way to show the quality of the product.
There are today 59 brands using TCO Certified for their IT products, Apple is not one of them. For Apple to continue to be able to sell their products in the future without TCO Certified or EPEAT, they must provide other qualities to compensate for this loss of security. One reason for the existence of regulations and sustainability certifications is the inability to trust in corporations. As we have seen, when opposing interests collide, there is a tendency to lower standards if there is a chance it will not be perceived. If you trust the technical specifications and the exclusively positive reviews in the news and published test reports, then you might be tempted to do without a certification. However, if you disregard the lack of certification and are responsible to prove the brands genuine environmental and social quality commitment it might not be enough to say “I thought they were okay..” to your boss and the 10,000 users you bought IT equipment for. Rather, it may be vital to have some documents to fall back on, or to, even better, have a third party sustainability label to transfer the questions and claims to.
Benefits with TCO Certified products
With TCO Certified products, for example, the purchaser enjoys the following benefits:
- Fair limits on what is reasonable to require, based on availability and market situation.
- The product is tested and evaluated by a third party (without the influence of the brand).
- Spot-checks on products and factories to ensure that all promises by the brand are kept.
- Questions regarding the sustainability of the purchase are handled by the certification org.
- Free support regarding the sustainability of the purchase.
- By supporting sustainability certifications the purchaser takes part in a larger effort towards a more sustainable society
We hope that Apple will use its unique innovation capacity to find ways to design a product according to high sustainability standards in the whole life cycle and we would very much like to have that dialogue.
TCO Development has recently started a stakeholder dialogue about recycling of IT-products and how recycling can be part of the quality of the products; design process, the production, end-of-life of a product.