Samsung's new Galaxy S4 is the first smartphone to be certified sustainable by TCO Development, an organization that promotes sustainability in the electronics sector.
Smartphones are evaluated for the length of their product lifecycle and energy efficiency. The criteria for TCO certification includes requirements for socially responsible manufacturing practices and reduction of hazardous materials. According to Sustainable Business, some of the sustainability requirements for smartphones include the following:
- All surfaces that come into human contact must be nickel-free
- Phthalate content must be minimal, since it is a health and environmental risk
- Must contain no beryllium because it is a category 1 carcinogen
- Batteries cannot contain lead, cadmium or mercury. Batteries need to be easily replaceable to extend the life of the device.
The goal of certifying smartphones and other electronics as sustainably manufactured is to place higher demands for sustainable sourcing on electronics companies and giving consumers more choice. TCO announced the new smartphone certification in April.
Large companies with sustainable procurement goals seek this certifications as a way to drive sales as consumers become more environmentally conscious, according to Sustainable Business. Smartphone purchases have dramatically increased in the past few years, and it has brought sustainability issues to the forefront. Sales are expected to reach one billion in 2014, and the rapid replacement rate of mobile devices can significantly contribute to waste. As smartphones increase sales, procurement of raw materials used to manufacture them, such as metals and fossil fuels, will become more difficult to source, Triple Pundit said.
Consumers have expressed greater demand for sustainably manufactured products, and companies are responding. Electronics manufacturers have sought to reduce hazardous substances, lengthen product life cycle, decrease e-waste and improve working conditions in facilities.