Significant Momentum Toward Sustainable Electronics in 2012

Happy New Year from

International Campaign for Responsible Technology!

Significant momentum toward Sustainable Electronics in 2012

(And why we need to improve coordination efforts to move this work forward in 2013)


While there has been more than 30 years of campaigning[1] in the global movement for sustainable electronics, 2012 saw some of the most important breakthroughs in this work. Key events increased awareness about the hazards throughout the electronics lifecycle and new initiatives are underway that will provide significant support for our future work in sustainable electronics.  In order to share this information with our growing global network, we’ve included some of the key highlights below:

Health and Environment Developments

Consumer awareness jumped as millions of people around the world learned about the impacts on people’s lives from the production and disposal of consumer electronics.  Many groups around the world increased their focus on electronics companies,  with increasing attention on the  2 most important high-tech icons of the 21st century – Apple and Samsung—as well as on the impacts of mining for the many minerals that go into consumer electronics :

  • Apple/Foxconn. Starting in January 2012, the New York Times published a series focusing on the “harsh” working conditions and the suicides at Apple’s Foxconn factories in China.  CNET also published an important series further exposing the Apple supply chain.  Since Apple also became the  “most valuable company”  in history, there was increasing  global demand for better treatment of production workers, especially in China.  See also the new web site that tracks labor issues at Apple.

11apple workers        11icrt samsung       11conflict minerals

  • Samsung.  The publication of an important article about the growing number of young workers who developed cancer while working at Samsung’s factories in Korea in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health brought increased scrutiny to Samsung’s harmful production practices. An Internet campaign focusing on occupational health issues led to Samsung being named one of the “worst companies” in the world for 2012.
  • Mining and e-waste export. Global awareness on the scandals of the e-waste export epidemic to Asia and Africa continues to increase, and new media interest brought increased attention to the hazards in mining the vast quantities of metals used in electronics production.  Many emerging mining campaigns –such as mining of conflict minerals in Africa, to huge protests inMalaysia on Rare Earth Metals refining, to news of a brutal crackdown on peaceful protests against a new copper mining project in Burma (Myanmar)– highlight a few of the enormous challenges as well as the dynamic nature of the global movement for justice.

We encourage you to continue your participation in on-going discussions to help find solutions to the challenges presented by the rapid growth of the high-tech industry, so please join the International Campaign for Responsible Technology list serve by signing up here and tell us what you are working on, what you think needs to be done and how you can help.  (We get it that most of us are already swamped, but we really hope you’ll give it a try.  Alternatively, let us know if you don’t want to receive these newsletters in the future).

To read the rest of this report on line and learn about the many important initiatives around the world, click here


Conferences and Reports

  • Global Strategy Meeting on Sustainable Electronics Industry, June 18 – 20, 2012 – Over 50 activists from 15 countries met to develop a global strategy for sustainable electronics – see for the conference report.


  • MakeIT Fair and GoodElectronics sponsored a workshop in Amsterdam in May 2012 on Workers’ rights in the global electronics sector.  The workshop was attended by representatives from the electronics industry and civil society organizations (NGOs)from around the globe.


  • Sustainable mobile phone design charette – July 11-12, 2012, Santa Clara, California.  A broad cross-section of the mobile phone industry participated, including product manufacturers, service providers, and repair/recyclers. Sustainability experts from non-governmental organizations (NGOs), government, and academia also attended the charrette.  For the Report summary, see .
  • The United Nations led initiative Strategic Approach to International Chemical Management (SAICM) approved far-reaching recommendations on the Hazards in the life cycle of electronic products.  Approved at the ICCM3 in Nairobi, September 21, 2012, the extensive recommendations address 3 key parts of the electronics lifecycle – Upstream (Design), Midstream (production), and Downstream (End of life).

Why do we need a vision for sustainable electronics?

(A discussion Draft of ETBC’s Vision report will be available soon for review.)

  • The Sustainable Electronics Forum held on October 15-18, 2012, at The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread in Racine, Wisconsin– co-sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Green Electronics Council and The Johnson Foundation.  EPA has been actively involved in sustainable electronics and co-chaired an Interagency Work Group that developed a “National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship.”   This strategy lays the groundwork for improving the design of electronic products and enhancing the management of used or discarded electronics.  Recommendations address four overarching goals to meet the challenge of protecting human health and the environment from the harmful effects associated with the unsafe handling and disposal of the products of improved technology.  A draft Roadmap from this meeting is circulating for review.
  • The American Public Health Association (APHA) adopted a visionary resolution in October 2012 – Improving occupational and environmental health in the global electronics industry

Recommendations Statement: Key strategies to strengthen occupational and environmental health in the global electronics industry include right-to-know laws, an emphasis on substitution of safer substances and processes, and occupational health surveillance.

See the presentations at APHA by health professionals from around the world on the electronics industry.


Publications and Roadmapping Initiatives

  • The International Electronics Manufacturing Initiative (iNEMI) Environmentally Sustainable Electronics: Roadmap and Vision

For the first time in an iNEMI Technology Roadmap we have added a twenty year “vision” of where our industry should be in 2033 on our Journey to a Sustainable World.”

“The International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors is sponsored by the five leading chip manufacturing regions in the world: Europe, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and the United States. The sponsoring organizations are the European Semiconductor Industry Association (ESIA), the Japan Electronics and Information Technology Industries Association (JEITA), the Korean Semiconductor Industry Association (KSIA), the Taiwan Semiconductor Industry Association (TSIA), and the United States Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA).”  Their current ESH roadmap focuses on the challenges of the toxicity and need for better monitoring of nano-materials.

Release of Biz-NGO Implementation Guide –

The Guide to Safer Chemicals was released in December by a broad coalition of groups working to replace chemicals of high concern with safer alternatives. This first-of-its-kind tool sets benchmarks for how manufacturers, retailers and purchasers can track their progress to using chemicals in products that are safer for human health and the environment.”


Campaigns, Initiatives, and Recognition


  • Global recognition of the Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs (IPE) – Ma Jun was awarded the Goldman Prize for his important work, including reports on Pollution in the electronics supply chain:

The Other Side of Apple II—Pollution spreads through Apple’s Supple Chain 

Investigative Report on I.T. Industry – Heavy Metals Pollution (Phase III)


  • Initiatives launched by major brands

In response to the growing attention to labor rights, occupational health and environmental health challenges throughout the electronics supply chain, major initiatives have been launched in Asia: IDH – The Sustainable Trade Initiative based in the Netherlands launched a multi-stakeholder initiative with electronics brands and suppliers, as well as NGOs and unions: and

“The Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH), together with Dell, HP, Philips, Apple and civil society organizations, have developed a new program to improve the working conditions and environmental performance of electronics factories in China, covering 500,000 workers.  This program is funded by IDH, Dell, HP, Philips and Apple.”

  • Apple has responded to the wide-spread criticism of its practices with Foxconn by contracting with the Fair Labor Association to monitor workplace issues.

See;  and

  • Samsung Worker Health International Campaign for Health and Labour Rights of Samsung Electronics Workers and SHARPS have been investigating and campaigning about the pattern of cancer and other illnesses among young workers at Samsung factories in Korea – their efforts resulted in Samsung being named the 3rd worst company in the Public Eye People’s Award (see above).


oA Korean Court ordered compensation for 2 Samsung workers who developed leukemia.

oSamsung has finally acknowledged the pressure from the campaign launched by SHARPS and has for the first time reached out to engage the victims

Mission Statement: “FairPhone is to become the first smarphone alternative in the market for concerned consumers and become a reference of transparency and involvement in social and environmental issues in the value chain of mobile phones. Current mobile phone brands do not appeal to the growing market of aware consumers, not offering a fair alternative. On top of that, 44% of consumers think that companies make false claims about the impact of their products.”


  • Eco-label developments – Several eco-labels continued their work developing “green” criteria for electronic products – EPEATULE Environment mobile phoneTCO, and others.  While none of these initiatives is “visionary” (since they depend on companies being able to meet their criteria with current equipment) they all suffer from a lack of a built-in roadmap of increasingly challenging steps to help guide industry progress, and too often they are dominated by narrow interests.


Our next steps


Because of all of these developments (and there are no doubt many more not mentioned here), we believe that the key strategic task ahead is to share this information so that we can better integrate these various initiatives into a coordinated, coherent action plan/road map that brings together diverse stakeholders and sufficient resources to achieve a sustainable future where the lifecycle of electronics is:

1.benign by design,

2.provides fulfilling, fair and healthy employment for those who mine, build and recycle the products,

3.increases capacity for consumers, and

4.assures end of life treatment that provides extended life and ultimately infinite recyclability of all products.


To get involved in these efforts, sign up Here and tell us what you are working on, what you think needs to be done, suggestions for moving forward, and/or how you can help.  (We get it that most of us are already swamped, but we really hope you’ll give it a try.  Alternatively, let us know if you don’t want to receive these newsletters in the future).

For more information:


(please suggest additional links that we can add here)

[1] HYPERLINK “”  Santa Clara Center for Occupational Safety and Health was formed in 1977; Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition was formed in 1982; Electronics TakeBack Coalition was formed in 2001 (as the Computer TakeBack Campaign); and the International Campaign for Responsible Technology was formed in 2002.

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