Interview with TCO Certified

TCO Certified is a certification scheme for IT products. We talked to Clare Hobby at TCO Certified about sustainability in the technology sector.

About TCO Certified

With 25 years of experience, TCO Certified is the world-leading sustainability certification for IT products. Our comprehensive criteria are designed to drive social and environmental responsibility throughout the product life cycle. Covering eight product categories including displays, computers and mobile devices, compliance is independently verified, both pre and post certification. Together we drive progress toward sustainable IT products.

1. Highlight how TCO Certified impacts ethical and social concerns?

For over 25 years, TCO Certified has helped drive IT products and their manufacturing in a more sustainable direction. While environmental factors like energy efficiency are continuing priorities, there’s definitely growing concern about social responsibility and human rights in the supply chain.

In TCO Certified we offer a broad set of leadership criteria that cover both environmental and social issues. Specifically we look at working conditions in the supply chain, focusing on industry implementation of codes of conduct in the supply chain. These criteria address worker health and safety, working hours and non-discrimination among other factors. We also have criteria in place designed to reduce the usage of minerals from conflict-affected regions.

Our criteria are backed up by independent verification of compliance and that factory non-conformities are corrected.

2. What have been the most noticeable shifts in the IT market when it comes to ethical concerns, CSR and certification? And how has TCO Certified addressed those specific concerns?

We know that IT products are associated with a wide range of ethical risks throughout their life cycle, and engagement in these issues among buyers and industry alike is growing. One major shift we’re seeing is that buyers want to drive positive change through their purchasing policies.

Purchasers tell us that they need tools that make a responsible product choice easier, and that include independent verification of compliance. This is exactly what we want to deliver  through TCO Certified - a ready to use, independent product certification that includes comprehensive, leadership sustainability criteria. Compliance with the criteria is assessed by independent verification, which is critical for buyer trust in any certification. For industry, the criteria then provide a platform for continuous improvement in social and environmental responsibility.  

Our advice to purchasers is “Know what you’re asking for”. While a brand or manufacturer may have an ethics code of conduct in place, you need proof that it’s actually implemented in the supply chain and that any non-conformities with it are corrected.

3. What can purchasers do to effect change in the IT market?

The most effective way to effect change in the IT market is to make your voice heard. When purchasers make sustainability a strategic focus in their purchasing practices, this sends an important message to industry that these issues matter. When buying new products, talk about your sustainability focus with your vendors early and often.

For products you already use, make sure to use them as long as you can. You can do this by regularly checking for software or component upgrades that could extend the usable life of those devices. Of course, we recommend specifying TCO Certified when sourcing new products. We have a guide on how to do this at tcocertified.com

4. How can purchasers identify models that are certified by TCO Certified?

At tcocertified.com you can visit our Product Finder, where you can search among more than 3,500 certified product models from 20 brands. The Product Finder is continually updated and is easily searchable by brand or product type. If you don’t find what you’re looking for, let your vendor know that you want TCO Certified on the products you want to buy.  Purchaser demand is the most effective way to communicate your sustainability priorities to industry.

5. Looking forward, what are the biggest challenges for the IT industry in terms of sustainability?

Technology is constantly evolving so we always need to be looking ahead to potential sustainability challenges that come along with rapid change. The concept of the circular economy is definitely in focus right now - not just for the IT industry, but for a variety of products like textiles and furniture for example. The question is, how do we achieve a product life cycle, that eliminates waste and where we keep existing materials in use and at a high value? We believe this is among the biggest questions facing industry and users alike.

The good news is there’s a lot of interesting work going on in this area right now and it’s something we’re addressing with our next generation of TCO Certified, which we’re launching in December this year. Important issues here will be extending the life of products, using safer materials and driving a more circular approach into the IT product life cycle.

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