Fostering sustainable consumption and production

Relevance of IEC and IECQ work in SDG 12

In the last 50 years, the global population has consumed more goods and services than the combined total of all previous generations. This has fostered economic growth and improved the quality of life for many while having a negative impact on the environment. However, consumption patterns differ significantly between developed and developing nations.

discarded smartphones
Sustainable consumption encourages people to repair their phones rather than discard them

History in brief

The unsustainable consumption patterns that were the norm for many years were an important factor in destroying the environment, drastically depleting stocks of natural resources, contributing to social problems such as poverty, and hampering sustainable development efforts.

In 1992, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, held in in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, recognized sustainable consumption and production (SCP) as an “overarching theme to link environmental and development challenges”.

In 1994, the Oslo Symposium on Sustainable Consumption came up with a definition of SCP: “The use of services and related products, which respond to basic needs and bring a better quality of life while minimizing the use of natural resources and toxic materials as well as the emissions of waste and pollutants over the life cycle of the service or product so as not to jeopardize the needs of future generations”.

Several conferences and summits – e.g. the Marrakech Process on Sustainable Consumption and Production in 2003 or the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20 in 2012 – reiterated the need for action in that field.

And in 2015, the United Nations General Assembly adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), covering a wide array of social, economic and environmental development issues, to be achieved by 2030. The IEC has identified 12 out of the 17 SDGs where its standardization and conformity assessment work can make an impact. One of these goals is SDG 12: Sustainable consumption and production.

IEC work for SDG 12

The IEC can contribute effectively to several of the targets set by the UN for SDG 12:

  • By 2030, achieve the sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources (12.2)
  • By 2020, achieve the environmentally sound management of chemicals and all wastes throughout their life cycle, in accordance with agreed international frameworks, and significantly reduce their release to air, water and soil in order to minimize their adverse impacts on human health and the environment (12.4)
  • By 2030, substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse (12.5)
  • Encourage companies, especially large and transnational companies, to adopt sustainable practices and to integrate sustainability information into their reporting cycle (12.6)
  • Support developing countries to strengthen their scientific and technological capacity to move towards more sustainable patterns of consumption and production (12A)

Many IEC technical committees (TCs) develop international standards in a wide range of technological fields linked to sustainable production. Among them – the list is not exhaustive – TC 21: Secondary cells and batteries, TC 35: Primary cells and batteries, TC 59: Performance of household and similar electrical appliances, TC 100: Audio, video and multimedia systems and equipment, TC 105: Fuel cells technologies, TC 108: Safety of electronic equipment within the field of audio/video, information technology and communication technology and TC 113: Nanotechnology for electrotechnical products and systems.

Controlling the use of hazardous substances

IEC International Standards together with the IEC Conformity Assessment Systems can help control the use of hazardous substances in the life cycle of electrical and electronic devices.

On the standardization front, IEC TC 111, deals with environmental standardization for electrical and electronic products and systems. Since its creation in 2004, the TC has published a number of crucial international standards relating to the environment. A key publication is IEC 62474 which establishes the requirements for reporting the substances and materials included in electronic and electrical products. It also facilitates the transfer and processing of this data by defining a common data format which applies to exchanges in the supply chain. The standard comes with a validated open database, which includes a list of substances, substance groups and common material classes.

Another important standard issued by IEC TC 111 is IEC 62430 which provides guidelines for minimizing the adverse environmental impact of devices throughout their lifecycle. The publication defines environmentally-conscious design for all electrical and electronic products, for instance which materials are used, the quantity of energy consumed to make them, as well as their rate of recyclability.

Complementing each other: standards and conformity assessment

As for conformity assessment, programmes also exist that allow manufacturers and suppliers of the electronic components used in all modern devices to ensure that their products have extremely limited amounts of hazardous substances or are hazardous substance-free.

One in particular, set up by IECQ, the IEC Quality Assessment System for Electronic Components, has the perfect solution for manufacturers and suppliers who want to produce and distribute hazardous substance-free (HSF) electronic components: the IECQ hazardous substance process management (HSPM) scheme.

A global solution

IECQ HSPM is a technically based management systems approach to implementing and maintaining hazardous substance-free products and production processes. IECQ HSPM was developed in response to component manufacturers’ need to give suppliers the means of demonstrating, through third-party assessment, that their electrical and electronic components and assemblies meet specific hazardous substance-free local, national and international requirements. Many companies today are working to attain IECQ HSPM Certification to IECQ QC 080000, IEC Quality Assessment System for Electronic Components (IECQ System) - Hazardous Substance Process Management (HSPM) System Requirements. The fourth edition, published in May 2017, clarifies how organizations can use IECQ QC 080000 to manage their hazardous substances other than through the outright removal of restricted substances and avoiding their use in products.

There are numerous advantages to using the 4th edition of IECQ QC 080000. Among them:

  • adaptation to global increasing hazardous substances legislation. For example, additional controlled substances, change control, product recall, as specified by the REACH regulation, the information communication within the supply chain, and notification to the European Chemical Agency (ECHA) about substances of very high concern (SVHC);
  • enhancement of documented information requirements in response to the applicable statutory and regulatory obligations. For example, requirements in the re-casted RoHS, such as compliance assessment, preparation of technical file, preparation of self-declaration, use of markings, etc. can now be managed through IECQ QC 080000.

The fourth edition also aligns with ISO 9001:2015, Quality management systems – Requirements, and has adopted ISO Annex SL, defining the new high level structure for all ISO management systems standards.

The processes used to identify, control, quantify, and report the HS content in electrotechnical products, or their components, must be defined and understood in sufficient detail to assure all relevant interested parties of the HSF status of a product. The processes must be appropriately documented and conducted in a controlled and consistent manner to:

  • facilitate verification of compliance to applicable customer requirements and regulations
  • allow efficient and effective compliance checks
  • facilitate the consistent deployment across organizations and their supply chain
  • allow harmonization of compliance and enforcement methods
  • help reduce technical barriers for product trading worldwide

IECQ QC 080000 is available in several languages on the IEC Webstore.

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