How standards help achieve sustainability

Energy-efficient, safe products

By Antoinette Price

We live in a fast moving world, in which technology is constantly evolving. There are increasing numbers of devices and systems in the marketplace which are used in various daily activities. From household appliances and medical devices to more complex electrical and electronic products, consumers worldwide want to be sure that these products are energy efficient and do not contain hazardous substances. International Standards help the electrotechnical industry comply with increasingly strict regulations and enable manufacturers to provide these assurances to global consumers.

Lead is often used in batteries
Lead is often used in batteries

Managing waste from day one

In recent decades, global societies have become more aware of the need to sustain the planet’s depleting resources, not only by creating more energy-efficient products, but also by finding more effective ways to recycle the materials from which they are made. In the past, recycling tended to happen at the end of a product’s life. Now manufacturers and industries consider, during the initial phase, what will happen to the product and its components, when they are no longer in use. This is particularly important for the electrotechnical industry, because often products contain a variety of components which come from different countries and therefore may be subject to differing regulations.

The basic environmental issues can be grouped into three categories:

  • Climate change, including greenhouse gases
  • Depleted resources, covering water, rare metals and fossil fuels
  • Health concerns related to toxic substances and emissions of products and systems

For the past decade, IEC TC (Technical Committee) 111: Environmental standardization for electrical and electronic products and systems, has been developing International Standards which contribute towards ensuring product and system environmental sustainability.

Environmentally conscious design

IEC 62430, Environmentally conscious design, specifies requirements and procedures for integrating environmental aspects into the design and development processes of electrical and electronic products. It allows the product’s environmental aspects to be balanced with factors, such as intended use, performance, cost, marketability and quality in the most environmentally-friendly way.

This Standard provides an overarching framework for manufacturers to consider all parts of the product’s life cycle from raw material acquisition, manufacture, distribution, use and maintenance, to its re-use and end of life, including the combination of products it contains, and the materials and components of which they are composed.

Regarding this last point, IEC 62474, Material declaration for products of and for the electrotechnical  industry, gives manufacturers information about the legal and regulatory substance restriction requirements needed at the early design stage of products.

This International Standard was simultaneously adopted on three continents by among others, the CEA (Consumer Electronics Association) in the USA, JGPSSI (Japanese Green Procurement Survey Standardization Initiative) and DIGITALEUROPE, representing the European digital technology industry.

Consumers and manufacturers are not the only ones to benefit from standards; authorities may also reference them in their regulations.

Keeping an eye on the environment

No matter what the level of activity is today, protecting the environment and preserving resources have become part of the overall equation. Since so much of what we do now relies on devices and systems powered by electricity, consumers more than ever want energy-efficient, safe products; it is up to manufacturers to deliver these. IEC International Standards contribute by providing manufacturers with the information they need to achieve the environmental sustainability of their products and systems.

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Lead is often used in batteries Lead is often used in batteries
Old IT equipment may contain regulated substances Old IT equipment may contain regulated substances
For the past decade, TC 111 has developed International Standards which contribute towards ensuring product and system environmental sustainability For the past decade, TC 111 has developed International Standards which contribute towards ensuring product and system environmental sustainability