The Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) has published a supplement on the electronics sector that provides electronics-specific examples, case studies, and advice on applying the eco-innovation methodology and its opportunities in the electronics sector. The report was developed in response to the electronics sector’s need for more guidance in building resilient, competitive, and sustainable business models for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), particularly those operating in developing countries.

The report titled, ‘Eco-i Manual: Electronics Supplement,’ was designed with the World Resources Forum. It is to be used in conjunction with the UN Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Eco-innovation Manual, which details the complete eco-innovation process. The supplement provides electronics sector-specific information and guidance to service providers supporting electronics companies on how to manage eco-innovation opportunities. 

Eco-innovation focuses on the development and application of a business model, shaped by a business strategy that incorporates sustainability throughout all business operations based on lifecycle thinking and in cooperation with partners across the value chain. The supplement aims to help electronics companies transitioning towards sustainability and circularity to better manage or phase out chemicals of concern in electronic products.

The supplement will help service providers advise a range of electronics-related companies operating throughout the electronics value chain, including those focusing on the components’ assembly and downstream activities. It covers both business-to-consumer and business-to-business aspects of the electronics industry. Its structure follows the six phases of the Eco-innovation Manual – preparation, setting the strategy, setting the business model, building a roadmap, implementation, and review – and adds electronics-specific details and considerations to a number of eco-innovation activities outlined in the main manual.

The supplement highlights increased circularity, social license to operate built on social responsibility, new promising business models that prove the technical and economic feasibility of eco-innovation measures, and increased credibility of product claims as some additional drivers to consider for eco-innovation in electronics.

A company case study – Silicon Latina S.A. from Brazil – illustrates how the supplement’s activities can be applied in the real world. It focuses on refrigerators and flat panel displays, as they are consumed in most markets, cultures, and income groups globally. For example, refrigerators, produced in most developing countries, are one of the most energy-intensive products during their use, but have promising innovation potentials. Flat panel displays, for their part, have an issue with flame retardants and other chemicals in the plastic components of the displays that are chemicals of concern.

As electronics manufacturers face challenges in attracting and retaining highly skilled people with the right experience, the supplement also aims to build capacity by emphasizing that companies that apply eco-innovation can better attract and retain talent in their work force.

The 2022 supplement was prepared under the framework of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) project on Global best practices on emerging chemical policy issues of concern under SAICM, which is funded by the GEF, implemented by UNEP, and executed by the SAICM Secretariat. [Publication: Eco-i Manual: Electronics Supplement]