Rating mobile handsets for environmental impact

One of the greatest challenges for society today is to manage the environmental impact of the way we live and the products we consume.

As more focus is put on the overall sustainability of our lifestyle choices, a number of companies have responded by providing consumers with information on the eco-impact of the products they buy and use.

In the mobile telecommunication sector, companies are developing a number of rating methods as a basis for informing consumers about the environmental sustainability of handsets. More than 6 billion handsets are in use, so improvements in the overall sustainability of individual handsets will have a significant global effect.

In response to consumers’ preference for purchasing products that produce a lower environmental impact or enhance sustainability, mobile telecommunication operators are developing public eco-ratings to measure the sustainability and environmental performance of mobile handsets. These eco-rating schemes generally cover three broad categories — the company, the supply chain and the device itself.

A new report by ITU titled “Review of mobile handset eco-rating schemes” highlights the pros and cons of the different kinds of schemes that major telecommunication companies are implementing.

The company rating is based on criteria that determine the sustainability of the handset manufacturer at a corporate level, taking account of such factors as greenhouse gas emissions or environmental policies.

The supply chain rating is based mainly on contract manufacturing, transport distances and sources of minerals. The handset rating is based on measures related to the characteristics of the handset, such as the components used to build the handset, the energy consumed when the handset is in use, and the recyclability and packaging of the device.

The eco-rating schemes aim not only to enable consumers to make informed choices, but also to drive improvements in overall sustainability in manufacturing and throughout the supply chain.

From a device manufacturer’s perspective, an eco-rating can be seen as an objective assessment of sustainability, to be used in advertising their handsets.

Many manufacturers have already implemented comprehensive programs around sustainability and eco-ratings can become the basis for publicly reporting the achievements of those programs. Also, by identifying areas that score poorly, eco-ratings can be used to improve manufacturers’ sustainability programs.

All the eco-rating schemes reviewed in the ITU report take a lifecycle and human health-based approach to measuring the environmental impact associated with the manufacture, use and disposal of the product.

Full story on rating mobile handsets for environmental impact  

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