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Sustainable IT Procurements – Impact or Greenwash?

IT products have complex, global supply chains with many suppliers, and technology development is fast-paced. Therefore, both extensive resources and a high level of expertise are needed to set relevant product criteria that are real drivers for a more sustainable IT industry. Even more difficult is to verify that products and factories meet the set criteria. A credible certification can help you do just that, here is an overview to help you get started with sustainable procurement of IT products.

Social and environmental challenges

IT products come with a number of social and environmental sustainability risks. Social responsibility is a continuing challenge throughout the IT supply chains. From raw materials extraction to final assembly, working hours, health and safety and forced labor are examples of industry-wide issues. Hazardous substances used in IT products present a wide variety of human health and environmental risks. Throughout the life cycle, products may release dioxins, halogens and other toxicants, which can persist in the natural environment and the human body. More than fifty million metric tonnes of e-waste is generated every year, equalling the weight of nearly 4,500 Eiffel towers. Much of it is incinerated or placed in landfill, causing pollution, human health hazards and the loss of valuable finite resources.

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Beware of greenwash!

It’s a jungle of declarations, labels and certifications out there and choosing the more sustainable option is not always easy. When purchasing a new product, choose one that is certified according to a sustainability certification compliant with ISO 14024. Criteria must then be comprehensive, relevant and cover the product’s full life cycle and compliance with the criteria must be verified by an independent part.

We have seen that just asking for sustainability criteria in your procurements is not enough. Independent verification is one of the keys to having direct impact and driving industry in a more sustainable direction. Therefore, be aware of self-declarations. Is compliance with all the criteria verified by an independent party or just some of them? Or none at all? Many labels include a mix of criteria, some that are independently verified and some that are self-declarations. Note the difference and make sure to use only certification schemes that have all of their criteria independently verified.

Get started with sustainable procurement

By using a credible label or certification with independent verification, the job of assessing and verifying compliance is done for you, saving time and resources. It gives you direct impact on the supply chain by simply specifying the certification in your procurement..

Step 1: prepare your organization. Set your goals and engage the right people.

Step 2: talk to your vendors. Involve your vendors earley and communicate your sustainable purchasing goals and priorities.

Step 3: specify the criteria. State your intentions, request certificate as proof of compliance of the certificate you specify and hold vendors accountable throughout the contract period.

Step 4: follow-up when the contract is signed. Buy from your sustainable purchasing contract, follow.up compliance with vendors and don’t forget to measure – and communicate –  your progress!

Circular economy is the key to sustainability

In a circular economy, resources are handled in a more responsible way where the goal is to extend product lifetime and recirculate all materials without producing any waste.

Product reuse is more resource efficient than recycling since most materials lose value every time they are recycled. Therefore, extending product lifetime is the best way of lowering its environmental impact.

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