Green IT: avoiding empty sustainability claims

Friday, 24 September, 2021

Green IT: avoiding empty sustainability claims

It is estimated that around 352,000 chemicals and mixtures are used in the manufacture of commercial products, with an estimated tens of thousands alone being used in IT products. Many are considered hazardous, with their use affecting the health of workers — particularly those in low-income countries.

TCO Development, the organisation behind TCO Certified, has announced it will extend its TCO Certified Accepted Substance List this year to process chemicals used in the manufacture of IT products. This addition will help procurement managers better assess the risks for workers involved in the supply chain of the IT products they buy, and to verify whether companies are using the safer alternatives available for manufacturing.

Easy identification

Many companies publish unverified claims about sustainability and workers’ safety, making it difficult for procurement managers to verify if IT manufacturing workers are exposed to hazardous substances. Increasingly, the use of ecolabels such as TCO Certified makes it easier to assess environmental and worker impact.

Sören Enholm, TCO Development CEO, said the addition of process chemicals improves worker protection.

“This year, we’re expanding our list of accepted substances, which until now focused on substances approved for use in the certified products. By adding process chemicals to our list we’re also improving the protection of workers involved in manufacturing IT products.

”Combining our environmental and social approach to evaluating and verifying IT products and factories’ safety onsite, we’re helping procurement managers to avoid the trap of greenwash, bluewash and empty sustainability claims,” he said.

The company uses a preventive approach to assessing the safety of chemical substances and considers every chemical high risk until proven otherwise. It is also a collaborative tool that suggests safer alternatives to hazardous substances.

“During our 30 years of certifying sustainable IT products, we have seen that using regulation to ban what’s harmful to people and the environment is not enough to work towards a sustainable future. It can easily become a game of cat and mouse, where what’s restricted is replaced by another substance just as harmful, or even worse,” Enholm said.

“As regulation lags behind, the TCO Certified Accepted Substance List is a practical tool for the industry that indicates what’s safer to use and more sustainable to buy. It’s a major step in our certification process and our contribution to both industry and society at large.”

The TCO Certified Accepted Substance List is dynamic, meaning listed substances may be reassessed in the light of new scientific findings.

More information about the list is available in the organisation’s Impacts and Insights: Navigating the Sustainable IT Revolution report here.

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