As per our damnation post, waste, dangerous chemicals, and unnecessary disposal is bad and legislation that requires waste to be minimized, dangerous chemicals to be avoided, and perfectly good materials to be reclaimed is good — unless new legislation comes in faster than your supply chain can keep up.
And while the US may not be as advanced as the EU in terms of legislation to this effect, some states, like California, are making a push for a plethora of new legislation and some countries, once expected to be behind the times in such legislation, are now attempting to lead the way (like India and China which are considering much more restrictive environmental legislation akin to European RoHS than one ever thought they would consider).
More legislation is coming, and your product supply chains are going to be hit hard if you are unprepared. Getting a good bill of materials system in place, a better trade document management system, and an online collaborative design solution, as discussed in our damnation post, is a good start, but it’s not enough. In addition to the basics, in order to maintain compliance with the ever increasing amount to environmental legislation in effect, and coming into effect, around the globe, the organization also needs:
1. Drill-down Bill of Materials Capability
A complete bill of materials is a good start, but many items will be components, made of subcomponents, each of which uses a number of sub-subcomponents and raw materials. Complete drill down visibility is needed to ensure 100% compliance with environmental legislation.
2. Regulatory Compliance Monitoring (by product by country)
So that the organization knows at all times the requirements for each product by country as well as any restrictions or bans for each component or raw material by country.
3. CSR Monitoring
This is the best way to get early warning of current issues and future legislation coming down the pipe. You don’t want to know about a new piece of legislation that is going to require a partial (or complete) raw material formulation the day after it is signed into law, which could only give you a few months to get in compliance, but the day it is first drafted and released for public consultation (or, if drafted in private, first brought to a legislative body for review). To stay ahead of the game, you have to get ahead of the pack.
4. Design for Sustainability
All new designs should not only use as few hazardous or restricted substances as possible, but should also use as many renewable, or at least abundant, resources as possible. Sustainability is the name of the game, as environmental sustainability is becoming a key component of business sustainability.
5. Design for Reclamation and Reuse
Metals and rare earth minerals are becoming in increasingly short supply, but, when a product is appropriately designed, becoming increasingly easier to reclaim. Plus, in many complex systems, not all parts wear out at the same rates, and if the system is designed for component-based upgrades, it can be used, and re-used, for a much longer lifespan. (The same way that servers designed for memory, storage, and processor upgrades can be used twice as long as integrated laptops.) Or, components with a significant life-span left, can be easily extracted and re-used in refurbished systems.
This is not necessarily everything that can be done, but it’s a great start, and when you get there, you will be considerably in the lead.