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Addressing the Issue of Chemicals of Concern in Electronics: Challenges and recommendations for labelling initiatives

Chemicals provide a variety of specific functions in electric and electronic products or in their manufacturing process. However, some of these chemicals are hazardous and can cause concern related to their potential for adverse impacts on human health and the environment. Such impacts can occur throughout the product’s life cycle, including raw material extraction, processing and manufacturing, but also during product use or at end-of-life. However, decisions influencing product ingredients are usually taken at upstream stages of the value chain. Actions to address chemicals of concern (CoC) in products thus need to consider the entire value chain, which requires a comprehensive and holistic perspective of the entire life cycle of products.

The aim of this document is to explore how ecolabels that cover electronic products may be able to further incentivize reduction and/or improved management of chemicals of concern. The report provides an assessment of how ecolabels covering electronic products currently address chemicals of concern, discusses the main challenges that labelling programmes currently face in this regard, and puts forward recommendations on how CoC-related criteria can be further incorporated into these programmes. Ultimately, the document aims to increase the ambition of different stakeholders to track and control chemicals along the value chains of electronic products.

This document was prepared by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in partnership with the One Planet network Consumer Information Programme CI-SCP) under the SAICM GEF 9771 project Global best practices on emerging chemical policy issues of concern under the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF).