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Regulatory compliance is key to the electrical and electronics (E&E) industry and given the global market and complexity of these products European regulations are a driving force in the regulations they need to meet. The following are some of the more important regulations to address.

1. Compliance with the regulation

WEEE2 - Waste of Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive

WEEE2 governs how E&E equipment in Europe is handled at the end of its use.  The WEEE directive was revised and the new version will be adopted by European member states on or before January 2015. This regulation mandates that countries greatly increase the amount of E&E products collected for proper disposal/recycling; from X% currently to 65% in 2019. WEEE2 will have a major impact on manufacturers and importers, and will require they:

  • organize and finance the collectionand the recycling of the electrical/electonic waste
  • inform waste management facilities of the appropriate re-use and treatment information for the products it places on the market
  • mark their product with the appropriate marking
  • implement Ecodesign in order to facilitate product reuse and reduce recycling costs

RoHS, REACH, Prop 65 – New trends to manage the restricted substances

As the global chemical requirements such as RoHS, REACH, California Prop 65 evolve and become more complicated, electronics companies are developing “Smart” compliance strategies that are cost effective and prevent unnecessary testing of materials and components. “Smart” compliance strategies include:

  • utilizing software to manage information from suppliers
  • continuous supplier training programs
  • conducting risk assessments on suppliers and materials and test where necessary
  • implementation of a data monitoring program

ErP - Energy Related Products Directive

The ErP Directive essentially helps develop performance requirements for energy consuming products. It replaces the Energy Using Products (EuP) Directive by expanding the scope to also include products which have an impact on energy consumption during their use.  The purpose of this European Directive is to decrease environmental impact with the longer term aim of benefiting both businesses and consumers with better, more efficient products. The ErP takes a staged approach and over the coming months a number of products will be required to meet the new requirements for the first time. Requirements are specific to the product groups and usually include:

  • minimum energy efficiency and energy management requirements
  • product information requirements
  • prepare the technical documentation file that may be required for control in the context of the CE marking

2. Ecodesign of products

Ecodesign – The pragmatic approach to connect the environmental experts with the designers

90% of the corporate carbon footprint of a manufacturer/retailer is embedded in the product’s life cycle. Reducing the global impacts of the industry requires implementing Ecodesign practices.  Ecodesign, which is guided by ISO 14062, is a systematic process that incorporates significant environmental aspects of a product as well as stakeholder requirements into product design and development.

The first challenge is usually to understand all the environmental impacts generated by a product over it’s life cycle, from the extraction of the raw material, the manufacturing, the distribution, the use and the end of life.  The Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is one of the tools that can be used to support the Ecodesign process by providing a global and multi-criteria evaluation of the product’s life cycle. However LCA requires expertise and may not be the ideal tool to provide to designers or buyers.

Qualitative checklists can be developed to make the Ecodesign process easy for design teams and stimulate innovation.  These Ecodesign decision making tools are based on the results of an LCA and on a technical benchmark with the environmental performance of competitor’s products.

Recyclability – New IEC/TR 62635 standard to harmonize the calculation of the recyclability of electrical and electronic equipment

IEC/TR 62635:2012 provides a methodology for information exchange involving EEE (Electrical, Electronic, and Electromechanical) manufacturers and recyclers. It also provides guidance for calculating the recyclability and recoverability rates to provide information to recyclers, evaluate the recyclability and recoverability rates reflecting real end-of-life practices and provide designers with recommendations to implement Ecodesign for Recycling practices. End-of-life information is  an important aspect of Ecodesign and environmental risk management.

3. Sustainable suppliers programs

With the rise of outsourced manufacturing to developing countries, development of supplier audit programs are important to assess the environmental, social and cost performance of suppliers.  The Global Social Compliance Programme (GSCP) is a business-driven programme for the continuous improvement of working and environmental conditions in global supply chains. The GSCP was created by and for global buying companies wanting to work collaboratively on improving the sustainability (social and environmental) of their oftenshared supply base. To this end, these companies are working on harmonizing existing efforts to deliver a shared, global and sustainable approach based on consensus and best existing practice.

Considering the expansion of outsourced manufacturing to developing countries and the complexity of supply chains, the industry is facing the challenge of increasing the visibility of the environmental and social situation of suppliers to drive continuous improvement.  The GSCP guidelines can be used as the starting point to build a sustainable supplier program, allowing companies to:

  • verify the compliance of the factories with the local regulation
  • address major environmental concerns such as the energy, water, waste, hazardous chemicals, etc.
  • identify potential for improvement and cost reduction
  • measure the risk
  • increase the awareness of factories and engage an action plan to drive a continuous improvement process.

4. Environmental communication

Energy Star & Energy efficiency

Market requirements are usually going beyond the requirements in terms of energy efficiency of electrical and electronic equipment. Energy Star is an international standard for energy efficient consumer products originated in the United States of America. Initiated as a voluntary labeling program designed to identify and promote energy efficient products, Energy Star began with labels for computer and printer products. In 20 years the scope of the program was significantly extended, covering various household, professional equipment and even buildings.

Energy Star can be considered as a strong market requirement, with major retailers or buyers requiring products to be certified. A race has started, manufacturers are now going beyond the ErP and Energy star requirements to differentiate their products on the market.

EPEAT registry

EPEAT, which stands for Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool, is an easy-to-use, on-line tool helping institutional purchasers select and compare computer desktops, laptops and monitors based on their environmental attributes. In February 2013, EPEAT announced its expansion beyond PCs and displays to include printers, copiers and other imaging equipment. To be added to the EPEAT registry, an imaging device must meet at least 33 required environmental performance criteria. Products may achieve higher ratings by meeting up to 26 additional optional criteria.  The program initiated in the US is progressively recognized worldwide.  Being EPEAT registered can provide a significant competitive advantage for companies selling to public buyers.

PRODUCT ENVIRONMENTAL PROFILE - PEP ecopassport program

Environmental Product Declaration, or EPD, is a standardized document that describes the environmental impacts of a product such as the raw material depletion, water footprint, water toxicity, carbon footprint, ozone layer depletion as well as other relevant environmental information such as the recycling potential or the energy consumption of the product. The impact categories are based on a life cycle assessment (LCA).   EPDs are primarily intended for use in business-to-business communication.  Among various existing EPD programs, the PEP Ecopassport program is probably the fastest growing initiative.  Since its initiation in the end of 2011, the PEP ecopassport program has registered more than 1000 environmental declarations for electrical, electronic, HVAC and refrigeration products.

Companies developing PEPs recently reported how they were able to save time and money (more than the cost of the creation of the PEPs) by using the information provided in the PEP’s. These companies have to submit bids to supply electrical equipment to organizations who have put out a Request For Proposal (RFP). In these RFPs businesses are usually asked for information on the environmental impacts of their products.  Developing PEPs enable companies to respond to this part of the RFPs using a lot less effort. Sales also reported that they believe than having these PEPs really helps them win bids.

For more information please contact our local SGS representative or our global team:

Xavier Vital
Global Sustainability Services
Ecodesign Department Manager
SGS North America, Inc.
t: +1 973 461 1492

Nicole Effenberger
Director of Client services
SGS North America, Inc.
t: +1 973 461 7906