High Tech Supply Chain –

Sustainability Challenges from Both Ends


Creating and maintaining sustainable and green business practices is a growing challenge for Electronics firms. As consumers obsess on the latest electronics gadgets and demand for all things electronic increases, demand for mined precious metals increases. On the reverse side, electronic waste grows. The UN has recently published several reports and articles…


Since the RoHS and WEEE work of 2003, and the emergence of Sustainability practices, the electronics sector has been actively working the issues (read Tips to Selecting Green Technologies article.) It’s a big problem, and a long supply chain, from mining to recycling. And garbage is a global business, too. No matter where you buy a product, the recyclable waste can wind up somewhere else – usually in a poorer nation where dollar-a-day workers are willing to risk their health and their lives to extract precious metals and other material for reuse.

The UN states that by 2020 waste from electronics will have increased 500% if a new way of recycling them is not found.

The problem needs to be looked at from end-to-end, from mining practices (read the report on mining from the UN committee on Sustainable development), to product development, to recovery of waste.The Basel Convention has ongoing work and many high tech firms are committed to following the conventions.

But without a rethinking of the material base of products, a revolution in energy harvesting and energy storage (batteries are a huge toxic component), and a reduction in our human footprint, the situation will not change. The challenges can only be met with world-wide cooperation and consumer pressure.

To view other articles from this issue of the brief, click here.

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