Ecolabelling, an essential tool for managing chemicals in electronics | News | SDG Knowledge Center

Eco-labeling initiatives can help manage chemicals of concern in the electronics sector, according to a report published by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). The authors make recommendations to scale up eco-labeling initiatives to better track and control the use of chemicals of concern throughout the electronics value chain.The report, “Tackling Chemicals of Concern in Electronics: Challenges and Recommendations for Labeling Initiatives”, explores the ways in which eco-labels for electronics products can incentivize the reduction of these chemicals and/or their improved management. He argues that it is important to ensure access to chemical information by all stakeholders in the value chain to minimize the chemical risks of electronics products, while enabling circularity. It also concludes that, while legislation can control market access and include specific provisions on the use of chemicals of concern, eco-labels can recognize best practice and are a practical tool for industry to improve transparency. and traceability throughout the value chain and drive progress beyond regulations. .

Ecolabels are a practical tool for the electronics industry and can lead to progress beyond regulations.

The report also highlights challenges and gaps in the ability of labeling initiatives to improve chemicals management in the electronics sector. These include the complex and international nature of value chains, cost or capacity barriers to adoption of eco-labels, and knowledge gaps regarding the presence of chemicals of concern that can harm the ability of eco-labels and auditors to assess and certify products.

Labeling initiatives can respond to both demand and supply. They can help consumers make informed choices about product purchase, use and end-of-life, and they can influence producers to track and improve the life cycle management of chemicals in products. .

The report recommends that eco-labeling initiatives:

  • ensure that chemical-related criteria take into account the entire life cycle of a product, from upstream (including raw material extraction, manufacturing and use phases) to downstream (end of life);
  • provide a list of prohibited chemicals and/or general categories of prohibited chemicals and/or establish a list of chemicals permitted for use under the label; and
  • increase harmonization and interoperability of criteria with other labeling initiatives.

The report stresses that criteria for the use of chemicals must be based on the latest scientific evidence and continually updated to guide towards a more environmentally friendly market segment for rapidly developing products like electronics. The impacts of alternative chemicals must be considered.

In terms of next steps, the report recommends: increasing consumer awareness of the issue of chemicals in electronics; build in-country testing capacity for accurate and better measurement of the presence of chemicals of concern to ensure industry is held accountable and can meet eco-label requirements; maximize alignment and interoperability of criteria related to chemicals of concern in eco-labels; and make better use of the complementary roles that eco-labelling and regulatory approaches can play in advancing the issue of chemicals of concern in electronics.

The document is the result of a multi-stakeholder process initiated by a workshop on “Addressing the challenge of chemicals of concern enabling circular electronics”, held in November 2020. It was prepared by UNEP in partnership with the One Planet Network Consumer Information Program (CI-SCP) under the SAICM GEF Project 9771 Global Best Practices on Emerging Chemical Policy Issues under the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF). [Report landing page] [Publication: Addressing the Issue of Chemicals of Concern in Electronics: Challenges and recommendations for labelling initiatives]

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