IEC – Study recommends International Standard with Harmonized Ecolabel Criteria

An IEC/TC111 study recommends developing an IEC International Standard with harmonized ecolabel criteria (requirements for environmental assessment of EEE products). Ecolabels are commonly used by purchasers to specify environmental performance expectations in procurement contracts for certain types of EEE equipment, especially IT equipment.
Market demand for a simple mechanism to assess the environmental performance of electronic products during procurement has led to global proliferation of ecolabels and their corresponding environmental assessment standards. These ecolabel programs are often driven by governments, product purchasers (including government purchasing), retailers, consumer groups, NGOs and the manufacturers themselves.

Standards consisting of environmental assessment criteria are used by ecolabel programs to set the requirements that must be met to earn manufacturers the right to claim and display the ecolabel. Ecolabel standards typically address environmental aspects and/or impacts that cover the full range of life cycle stages, including product design, manufacturing, transportation, use phase and end of life.

Criteria may include product requirements for reduction of hazardous substances, alternative substances assessment, materials selection, design for end of life, product longevity and life-cycle extension, energy conservation during the use phase of the product, reduction of emissions, end-of-life management, product packaging, life cycle assessment, and product carbon footprint. The criteria may also address various corporate environmental performance measures such as implementation of an environmental management system (EMS), emissions during manufacturing and transportation, sustainability reporting, organizational carbon footprint, energy management and use of renewable energy, etc.

Conflicting Requirements

The study considered environmental assessment standards that were in use in USA, Canada, EU, China, Japan, and Korea. Standards that were assessed included IEEE 1680.x (EPEAT ecolabel), Blue Angel, EU flower, TCO, Nordic Swan, several Chinese ecolabel standards, and Japan Ecomark. The group found that the environmental improvement objectives were often similar, but detailed requirements were sometimes sufficiently different that they caused conflicts in the design requirements.