The IEC technical committee responsible for environmental standards for the EEE industry (IEC/TC111) recently updated its strategic roadmap to highlight areas that have emerging needs for international standardization. This roadmap provides EEE manufacturers and suppliers with insight into areas with emerging conformity requirements and where more well defined methods and/or guidance are needed. These requirements are typically driven by new regulations or divergent requirements that are causing trade barriers or supply chain issues.
In 2004, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) created technical committee TC111 to develop internationally recognized standards to assist manufacturers in complying with emerging environmental regulations of Electrical and Electronic Equipment (EEE) and other voluntary initiatives. The use of harmonized standards reduces uncertainty and risk for international trade and helps enable communication and consistency across a global supply chain. IEC standards are recognized by the World Trade Organization (WTO) and member countries of the WTO have agreed to harmonize their national standards with IEC standards wherever possible.
The Role of IEC Environmental Standards
Several of the IEC/TC111 standards are commonly used for assessing compliance to regulations such as EU RoHS (and other global RoHS regulations), EU REACH (declaration of SVHCs), WEEE, and emerging carbon footprint and environmental footprint regulations. The standards provide tools for material declaration, assessing restricted substance controls, analytical testing, environmentally conscious design, etc.
For a list of all IEC/TC111 published standards and standards under development, see the RoHS news post IEC/TC111 – Environmental standardization for electrical and electronic products and systems.
IEC is often not the first standards organization to create a standard on a specific topic, but it can help harmonize approaches across national or regional standards.
What’s New in the Revised Roadmap
The standardization topics in the roadmap are organized into seven categories:
- Chemical Substance
- Standardized substance testing methodologies
- Maintenance and improvement activities related to material declaration
- Demonstration of due diligence for substance restriction conformity.
- Definition of “low halogen” materials used in electrotechnical products.
- Environmental Conscious Design (ECD)
- Environmentally Conscious Design (the intention is to progress IEC 62430 to a dual logo ISO/IEC standard that is applicable to all products)
- Product Category Rules (for full LCA of multiple environmental impacts)
- Treatment, collection and logistics of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE)
- Greenhouse Gases (GHG)
- Methodologies and rules for Carbon footprint calculation of EEE
- Electrotechnical specific secondary data
- Resource efficiency
- SMART Cities
- Environmental Product Declarations and Eco labels
The IEC/TC111 roadmap is included in the Strategic Business Plan (SBP) which may be downloaded from the IEC website.
The standardization topics under Environmental Product Declarations (EPD) and Eco labels are newly added and have been gaining considerable interest.
Environmental Performance Criteria
The standardization area of “Environmental Performance Criteria” is in response to the plethora of eco label criteria emerging around the world. Environmental labelling programs and registries specify criteria for assessing environmental performance of a variety of electrical and electronic products. Programs exist for computers, monitors, imaging equipment, TVs, tablets, phones, and many other EEE products. These programs give purchasers an easy, predefined mechanism to set green procurement requirements. However, many of the environmental labelling programs have overlapping scope and sometimes establish inconsistent (or even incompatible) environmental criteria. Inconsistencies can create significant challenges for manufacturers and suppliers who try to optimize environmental performance of products and manufacturing operations simultaneously for all markets around the world.
An IEC International Standard on Environmental Performance Criteria would enable users, ecolabelling bodies and registries, manufacturers and supplies (from around the world) to leverage and build upon a harmonized set of baseline environmental performance criteria. A harmonized set of baseline criteria provides benefits to all stakeholders.
Product Category Rules (PCR) for Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)
An International standard for EEE product category rules has also been gaining interest. Conducting LCAs that provide meaningful information is challenging for the electronics industry. With a complex supply chain and significant impacts from raw material extraction and part manufacturing in several environmental impact categories, the assumptions made with respect to setting scope, boundary conditions, cut-off rules, product use, electricity generation, and the use of primary vs. secondary data are very important in the usefulness and comparability of the results. This is particularly important as governments around the world tighten rules to avoid green washing with environment claims.
A baseline set of internationally harmonized PCR across the electrotechnical industry can provide a significant opportunity for the industry to better utilize the results of a LCA. The International Standard may also provide rules and guidance for the development of supplemental sector specific PCR that may be needed for specific types of products. A baseline PCR across the entire EEE industry will also provide consistency for the supply chain which may be providing parts and materials to a number of different sectors.
ECD Compliance uses published and emerging International Standards to support manufacturers and suppliers in meeting current and future product environmental compliance and sustainability requirements. We can also provide a window for your organization into emerging environmental standards. For additional information, contact ECD Compliance.
Future posts will examine some of these standardization areas in more detail.