Going green

International Standards are a powerful tool in helping to build a sustainable future

More and more governments and industry players recognize the importance of taking measures to safeguard the environment. But do International Standards have a role to play in the process?

Workers inspecting produce at a vertical farm
Vertical farms provide urban dwellers with year-round access to fresh vegetables (Photo: Plenty)

The answer is a resounding yes! While often hidden from direct view, Standards underpin innovative technologies as well as the processes that are increasingly regarded as essential in enabling sustainable and environmentally responsible economic growth.

Renewable power generation capacity had a record year in 2017, with an estimated 178 GW added globally. While solar PV and wind have seen the most important uptake, technologies such as concentrating solar thermal power (CSP) are also seeing an increase in their global capacity. IEC Technical Committee (TC) 117 is paving the way for the technology’s growth by working on a number of publications for the CSP industry.

Renewables often allow for smaller installations, such as roof-top solar panels or micro hydro. These, in turn, are perfect for the distribution of electricity by direct current (DC). In his article Electricity for the 21st Century-for all, IEC Ambassador Vimal Mahendru discusses the huge potential of DC and the importance of developing a complete set of global Standards in order to facilitate its adoption.

Vertical farms are an example of where DC could be applied. Still an industry in its infancy, vertical farming is making a case for food grown locally and year-round in existing infrastructure such as warehouses and skyscrapers. We take a look at this niche industry and the technology it uses.

But Standards are not only important in helping new environmentally-friendly technologies to establish themselves and thrive. With the increase in production, and the resulting disposal, of electrical and electronic devices, International Standards are playing an essential role in helping to guide manufacturers in meeting new legal requirements and even rethink the manufacturing process.

According to one report, e-waste is expected to reach 52,2 million tonnes by 2021. If not disposed of correctly, the toxic substances present in electrical and electronic devices present a real hazard to humans and the environment alike. At the same time, many of the rare earth metals used in these devices can be “mined” for reuse. International Standards can help ensure electrical and electronic products comply with regional and international regulations on e-waste.

The IEC Advisory Committee on Environmental Aspects (ACEA) chair Solange Blaszkowski, and leader of the new task force on the circular economy Kaisa-Reeta Koskinen, spoke to us about the concept of the circular economy, the importance of getting society as a whole on board, from manufacturers to consumers, and the role International Standards can play in bringing about this major shift.

The need to take concrete measures to safeguard the environment and rethink manufacturing and consumption models is becoming ever more urgent. International Standards have an important role to play in ensuring their success.