The Basel Action Network is conducting a tracking study which found that an e-Stewards certified company exported used electronics to Hong Kong. (Exporting to Hong Kong violates the e-Stewards standard because Hong Kong is not an OECD country.) More certified companies, including R2 companies, will be implicated in the study as having violated the requirements of their respective standards.
Whether the “charges” in each case turn out to be correct or not, they will be disconcerting to the people, including corporate and government decision makers, who look to the certification programs when selecting electronics recyclers. These people, and all the responsible recyclers that are certified, want to know what is being done to ensure the certification programs are as reliable as possible.
With respect to R2, a recent SERI press release outlined a number of the steps SERI is taking (https://sustainableelectronics.org/news/2016/06/12/seri-r2-statement-enhanced-quality-assurance-initiatives). It covers a broad range, including conducting spot audits of certified facilities and reviewing R2 auditors’ “forensic” techniques and evidentiary findings – in each case with an emphasis on the documentation of outbound shipments and downstream companies’ qualifications. As a result of this work, recyclers and auditors not meeting R2’s high standards have been forced out of the certification program.
Over the last month, SERI has been analyzing the “low resolution” data from the tracking study that BAN has released. (BAN is withholding far more precise data generated by the study). Based on this analysis, SERI is conducting spot audits of companies that may be implicated in the study to assess whether they have illegally exported or have failed to conduct the required due diligence on downstream recyclers. This effort will include SERI auditing a number of facilities in Hong Kong.
As SERI learns of additional recyclers implicated in the study, it will investigate aggressively any that are R2 certified and take appropriate action against any found to have violated the R2 standard.
Customers of electronics recyclers want the highest reliability possible from the R2 certification program, as do all the highly responsible electronics recyclers that are R2 certified. Both groups deserve it.
Moreover, SERI’s mission is to help “create a world where electronic products are reused and recycled in a way that promotes resource preservation; the well-being of the natural environment; and the health and safety of workers and communities.” For the R2 certification program to help achieve this mission, it must reliably identify responsible recyclers. SERI will do everything within its means to assure the certification program effectively plays this role.