Repair companies challenge OEMs over standards

August 08, 2017 // By Nick Flaherty
Technology companies are blocking stronger green electronics standards, particularly in the US, according to a new report by a repair industry organisation.

The report, Electronics Standards Are In Need of Repair, finds that OEMs have systematically blocked attempts to promote longer-lasting, more repairable devices.

New products are scored against environmental performance criteria and are included on the EPEAT registry with a Bronze, Silver, or Gold designation. But manufacturers have been watering down the standards to meet their existing products instead of designing leadership standards that encourage better products, says the report.

“Green standards in the US play an important role,” said Gay Gordon-Byrne, Executive Director of Repair.org which commissioned the report. “They are supposed to shape the electronics industry for the better and encourage manufacturers to make more sustainable products. As consumers, we should be able to trust them to identify only the most sustainable products. Instead, members of the IT industry have co-opted standards for their own benefit, warping them into a tool that drives sales at the expense of the environment. This is patently unacceptable, and it needs to change.”

“Electronics-makers can make products that are both cutting edge and long-lasting. Instead, they are pumping the market with disposable products that can’t be repaired and can’t easily be recycled. Green standards in the US should promote better, longer-lasting products—but tech companies won’t let that happen. They’re short-changing consumers and the environment,” said iFixit CEO and reuse expert Kyle Wiens, one of the members of repair.org.

The report points to the current development process in groups such as IEEE that favours members from well-funded organizations. Participating in the standards development requires an investment of time and money, which often deters participants with fewer resources, such as non-profit organizations, small businesses, and academic experts. It recommends that regulatory bodies should balance the representation of standards boards to avoid a process that can be commandeered by manufacturers' representatives.

The report also highlights that revising standards, for example to improve the environmental requirements, can be slow and this can be exploited by manufacturers and other IT industry