IT eco-declaration extended to print supplies

Major electronics manufacturers, including HP, Sharp, Canon and Ricoh, have joined forces to produce the "definitive" green declaration for print supplies, including cartridges and inks.

The IT eco-declaration for print supplies is the latest in a series of eco-declarations developed by IT-Foretagen, the Swedish IT and telecommunications association. The declarations allow buyers to compare the environmental credentials of IT products from different manufacturers on a like-for-like basis.1

As well as answering customers’ frequently asked questions, the declaration brings together criteria from common environmental labelling schemes such as the Nordic Swan, Blue Angel, TCO and EU eco-labels, plus others in South Korea, Japan and Taiwan.

It covers manufacturers’ environmental practices and product features including design, batteries, noise, electrical safety, energy use, chemical emissions, materials used and packaging.

The declarations’ procedures set out principles to ensure each manufacturer measures and presents results in the same format so buyers can compare products.

Information is updated regularly on the basis of new developments, revisions to eco-labels or in response to customer questions.

"The eco-declaration for print supplies is an industry-led initiative with teeth, as non-compliance can lead to exclusion from the system," said Hans Wendschlag, HP’s Nordic environmental programme manager, who chaired the group that developed the declaration. "We have ten years’ experience with the IT eco-declarations for IT hardware products, where 80% of all IT companies on the Nordic market have already signed up, meeting customer demand for objective, comparable information," he added.

Hardware products were the first to be considered when the system was developed in 1996 in response to growing interest in sustainable procurement in Scandinavia.

Since then new declarations have been developed for personal computers, printers, copiers, faxes and display screens, and for product categories where eco-labels have set no specific criteria, such as digital cameras and servers.

IT-Foretagen says it "was natural to develop a system for declarations in the environment area" in view of the proliferation of green labels and claims made by manufacturers without verification.

To satisfy the declaration, member companies must sign a contract with the association, verify compliance statements on request, correct errors immediately and pay a small annual fee. Non-compliance, it says, "can and does result in exclusion from the system."

Norwegian testing, inspection and certification service firm Nemko Group randomly selects and examines a quarter of all companies submitting declarations to verify information.

The system has become one of the most widely used product environmental information tools for electronics in Europe, particularly in the Nordic market by public and private companies, from the Swedish Agency for Administrative Development to clothing retailer H&M.

The system’s success is now influencing developments overseas. In 2004, the US Environmental Protection Agency incorporated much of it into its Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (ENDS Report 377, pp 24-25 ). In 2005, ECMA International set up a project to harmonise its TR/70 standard with the eco declaration, which in June 2006 became the international standard ECMA-370.2In coming years, declarations might venture into telecommunications - where manufacturers like Nokia already use self-declarations - and consumer electronics.

"In the future, consumer electronics manufacturers will be asked to provide essential environmental data and somehow present that information in-store to help consumers make informed choices. We have experience in providing the information and we could become a useful source of data," said Hans Wendschlag.