Tech firms take action on hazardous materials

Dell, Samsung and LG are among the first tech firms to certify their products against new criteria for hazardous chemical substances, in a bid to reassure customers about their environmental standards.

Displays, headsets and notebooks can now be ranked based on the chemical substances used in the manufacturing process. Image: TCO Development

Displays, headsets and notebooks can now be ranked based on the chemical substances used in the manufacturing process. Image: TCO Development

Six computer equipment manufacturers, which also includes Lenovo, Plantronics and Eizo, have certified displays, headsets and notebooks through the third-party TCO Certified sustainability certification scheme, which now includes criteria for non-halogenated, flame-retardant substances.

TCO Development’s certification director Niclas Rydell said: “Today there are over 40,000 chemical substances on the market - the environmental and human health effects of the vast majority are unknown.

“Our goal with the new criteria is to provide the electronics and chemical industries with an incentive to test the flame retardants they use, and provide information on their effects. We believe it’s time for the IT industry to take a greater responsibility in this area.”


IT products achieving TCO Certified are third-party verified to meet criteria for environmental and social responsibility throughout the product life cycle, including manufacturing, use and end-of-life handling

Through this latest version of the TCO Certified scheme, chemical substances used in the manufacturing of computer parts are assessed and assigned a benchmark between one and four, with one being the most hazardous.

Substances receiving a benchmark from two to four are included on the TCO Development Accepted Substances List, and are accepted for use in certified products.

Commenting on its new environmental certification, Dell’s environmental affairs manager for the EMEA region Markus Stutz said: “Dell was one of the first companies to certify displays to the new TCO Certified and we currently have more than 60 monitors available in their database.

“We got involved with TCO early on because it is an easy and effective way for interested customers to identify products that meet social and environmental standards throughout their lifecycles.

“As customers increasingly look for third-party assurances around labor conditions, minimal hazardous materials content, energy savings and ergonomic issues, TCO provides them with an easy way to identify responsible manufacturers.”

Circular thinking

This latest version of TCO Certified also includes tighter criteria for socially responsible manufacturing, including code of conduct implementation and actions for preventing worker rights violations in the supply chain; along with requirement for each brand to have a policy addressing conflict minerals as well as active participation in at least one initiative aimed at combatting their use.

The electronics industry continues to battle with the environmental challenge of e-waste, after a new report released in September revealed that just a third of all used-but-still-functioning electronics were properly recycled across the EU in 2012.

In the past month, edie has reported that Dell has ramped up its commitment to the circular economy by launching a series of innovative recycling schemes and joining Ellen MacArthur's Circular Economy 100 programme; while Samsung has indicated a move towards a servitisation-based business model with the launch of a new refurbishment scheme.

Luke Nicholls


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