New challenges for electronics Supply Chain

March 17, 2011 EcoVadis

The IT and telecommunications sectors have long been at the forefront of sustainable procurement, yet the pressure to successfully actualize sustainable practices along each stage of the supply chain (raw materials, manufacturing and end-of-life recycling) is intensifying.
Beyond all the existing issues of diminishing raw materials, electronics companies source minerals such as cobalt, coltan and copper in countries that are often marred by corruption and civil war. “Blood laptops” and “genocide phones” are becoming commonplace terms such that in July the US included a “conflict-free” electronics provision into a financial reform law, conforming companies to disclose the origin of minerals purchased.
In manufacturing, the watchdogs of the Western world have been the primary investigator of electronics abuses, but the tide is shifting to include influential Asian-bred NGOs. In May, 34 Chinese environmental groups published a report accusing Global IT companies of inadequately mitigating their environmental impacts. With electronics manufacturing plants in their backyards, Asian activists are putting the pressure on.
As for end-of-life recycling, WEEE (a European directive) has imposed the responsibility of e-waste disposal on electronic equipment manufacturers. A recent study indicated that e-waste would reach 73 million metric tons by 2015. But the lack of transparency in the recycling chain, and the circumvention of trans-border regulations on the movements of toxic waste have generated a situation: most of the e-waste ends up in developing countries, causing serious environmental and human health threats due to the lack of appropriate recycling techniques.
Of course, all of these issues are further compounded by the planned obsolescence inherent in electronic products. In order for the IT sector to stay ahead in Sustainable Procurement and to stay competitive, they must not only monitor, but also engage both their upstream and downstream suppliers in a more than ever complex value chain.

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