Supply Chain Enabled

Aftermarket certification for ICT equipment

Published: February 7, 2022
Author: Xavier Hubert

Aftermarket certification for your ICT equipment

For a long time, the fate of ICT equipment, no longer needed, has been the least of an organisation’s concerns.  Indeed, most seemed content to let someone take aftermarket equipment away for the smallest fee on offer.  Other companies, typically those dealing with higher volumes of more recent used products (e.g. an electrical retailer) were happy to hand it over to the highest bidder through private auctions, few questions asked.  Many would say, they were simpler times.

Whether it is at the core of your business or just a means to an end, technology is a key part of every organisation today.  It may well be that your organisation does not own any of the ICT equipment it uses, neither produces, nor sells any.  If so, you have just spared a few minutes of your time and may decide to check out our other blog posts.  Otherwise, read on if you are interested in minimising the risks associated with ICT equipment disposal, or in opportunities associated with their return.

Fast forward to 2022 and challenges grow.  With the era of GDPR and ever growing mountains of e-waste and Corporate Environmental commitments.  It is, therefore, no longer acceptable to ignore the outcome of such practices or trade on good faith.  So, what does best practice looks like and what should you be looking for in your supply chain partners, when it comes to end-of-life or aftermarket services?

Below is a quick look at a hierarchy of relevant certifications:

The absolute essential: Relevant waste management registration and permits

Whether it has barely been used or it is falling to pieces, any product you are discarding could and typically would be considered by law as waste.  This classification will trigger, in most jurisdictions across the globe, a requirement for specific waste management registration and/or permits.

Compliance with other relevant waste regulations, from anyone handling these products is also required.  It is therefore essential that you ensure the parties you contract with meet the relevant legal requirements for waste handling.  This typically includes anyone collecting, transporting, brokering, storing, assessing, processing, recycling, or incinerating any equipment considered waste.  Bear in mind that any transboundary shipment of such equipment would be regulated by the Basel Convention (unless of course you are shipping between Haiti and the USA!).

At a minimum: ISO 14001:2015

The ISO 14001:2015 standard is referred to as Environmental Management Systems (EMS).  This standard will offer some degree of assurance that the minimum legal requirements are complied with.  It will also give you an indication that proper procedures are in place at the company for recording, training, emergency response and other continuous improvement requirements. For this reason, it is advisable to consider this the minimum you should expect.  It is important to note however that, unlike other ISO standards, organisations can self-declare 14001 compliance.  We would suggest you ask for a verified compliance, and ask for it in conjunction with ISO 9001 and ISO 45001, dealing with Quality and Occupational Health and Safety systems respectively.  Be mindful that these certifications may be location specific, so ensure it covers the locations relevant to your product flows.

ICT equipment is a very specific type of waste.  It often holds personal and confidential data and may present opportunities for re-use or for parts re-use.  ICT waste also contains small quantities of precious metals, various quantities of critical materials, as well as some quantities of toxic substances.  As a result, Waste of Electrical or Electronic Equipment (WEEE) is often handled by a multitude of different specialists, as part of a long downstream processing chain.

As a first step, you should ensure that any data is correctly removed (penalties and adverse publicity in this area are highly punitive).  Also, ensure proper effort is made to valorise equipment or material while mitigating environmental consequences.  It is highly recommended that you look for a partner that is certified for R2 or e-Stewards (both widely used across North America and beyond), WEEELABEX (mostly across the EU) or other local equivalents.  Whilst each of these will differ slightly in approach, scope, level of requirements and their implementation, the outcome for you is fairly similar.  The outcomes should encompass due diligence, a high level of control and audit trail, and minimised risks.  These certifications are audited and verified by third parties, however it should be noted that they are not systematically company-wide certifications, nor do they necessarily guarantee full downstream compliance…

Desirable: Zero waste to landfill

While the above certifications (i.e. R2, e-Stewards or WEEELABEX) drive disposal practices that would be considered safe and sound, these are not necessarily having a positive or even neutral impact on the environment.  This would refer more specifically to incineration or landfill activities. Should your company aim to minimise its impact on the environment, then you may also look for what is commonly referred to as Zero waste to landfill certification.

We use the term “commonly” as there is no global standard or even definition for it yet.  UL 2799 and other equivalent standards, however, being developed by other well-known certifications bodies, are starting to gather momentum.  It is important to note that in all cases Zero does not mean Zero.  Zero is often more like 90%+ when taking into account some inherent process inefficiencies and/or absence of capabilities.  In all cases, the aim of such a scheme, diverting as much waste as possible from landfill or incineration, is bringing you closer to a sustainable disposal practice.  It also drives a much stricter inspection regime and data exchange with all the downstream processing partners.  These partners also handle your waste, but without any contractual engagement with your business.

For consideration: ESG Disclosure, performance, and scoring

Perhaps the disposal of hardware represents an on-going and significant part of your activity.  You might manufacture, sell or perhaps consume large quantities to support your activity.  Instead, you may simply have very high Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) standards and commitments as a company.  Either way, you may also want to consider selecting partners that can contribute more closely to your ESG agenda and objectives.

Relevant standards in this area are provided by the Responsible Business Alliance (RBA – formerly EICC) or the likes of EcoVadis, amongst others.  You may also look for companies that participate in voluntary carbon disclosure schemes such as Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), allowing you to better understand your own supply chain greenhouse gas emissions (or Scope 3 emissions).  All these provide additional information on the level of performance of your partners, their progress over time, and how they compare.

For further information on any area mentioned above, or to explore your aftermarket next steps being considered, we would love to hear from you.

Supply Chain Enabled
Supply Chain Enabled™ - Receive supply chain insights, best practices, and news
Sign up to our communications list