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Quality Labelling for Re-used ICT Equipment to Support Consumer Choice in the Circular Economy

  • I. Gåvertsson
  • L. Milios
  • C. Dalhammar
Open Access
Original Paper
  • 179 Downloads

Abstract

The ever-increasing consumption of natural resources required for the production of consumer electronics, and the growing amount of electronic waste, underline the importance and urgency of extending the lifespan and use of such products. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) remanufacturing is a growing industry, which nonetheless faces several barriers. Consumers often have a perception of re-used and remanufactured products that they are of lesser quality than their new counterparts. To increase consumer confidence, a quality label could be used to communicate quality aspects of re-used ICT equipment. This study investigates the potential of establishing a comprehensive labelling scheme for ICT products, covering criteria on product quality, as a way to support the uptake of re-used and remanufactured products in Sweden. A detailed analysis, through interviews and a literature review of existing re-use certification initiatives in different jurisdictions, highlighted aspects that should be considered for the design and implementation of a labelling scheme, including appropriate marketing, funding sources, establishment of networks, and the necessity of specific quality criteria on ICT products. Interviews with Swedish ICT stakeholders revealed a trade-off between the information communicated by a label of re-used and remanufactured ICT products and the costs to cover and verify these aspects. The Swedish ICT re-use sector is small and it could only benefit from a labelling scheme if there is wide stakeholder participation and government support. Lastly, a quality labelling scheme should be linked to public procurement processes to improve its effectiveness and efficiency.

Keywords

Environmental policy Labelling Re-use Remanufacturing Resource efficiency Circular economy 

In a resource-constrained world, the urgency of accelerating the transition from the current linear system of production and consumption, which overexploits resources and fails to account for their sustainable management, to a circular economy (CE), which takes into account the limited earth’s resources, is more pressing than ever (Preston 2012). CE is a recently re-introduced concept that has attracted a lot of attention from decision makers and business executives around the world as a possible way of achieving a sustainable society (Ghisellini et al. 2016). CE combines well-established notions of resource efficiency while making explicit the economic aspects of saving resources and the potential economic gains (Murray et al. 2017). Recently, the European Commission presented a comprehensive action plan for transitioning to CE (European Commission (2015) 614 final), including a variety of policy instruments across the life cycle of products (Milios 2018).

Food, accommodation, and transport are three of the most resource intensive consumption areas, but also Information and Communication Technology (ICT) products represent a large and growing part of consumption impacts (EEA 2014). Electronic waste is the fastest growing waste stream in the European Union (EU) and most of the waste recovered is recycled rather than re-used (Eurostat 2017). ICT products such as computers, laptops, tablets, and mobile phones contain materials of high value as well as hazardous substances (Tanskanen 2013). Often, ICT waste is collected in developed countries and then shipped to developing countries for recycling or re-use (Widmer et al. 2005). However, extending ICT product life through re-use prior to recycling is considered a preferable option, as product complexity often makes it difficult to recover valuable materials in ICT products (Dahmus and Gutowski 2007). Further, the major life-cycle impacts of ICT products are related to the raw material extraction and production phases, not the use phase, so prolonging the life spans of ICT products is beneficial from an environmental perspective (Prakash et al. 2012).

While the term “re-use” is applied inconsistently in literature, the EU Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC) defines re-use as “any operation by which products or components that are not waste are used again for the same purpose for which they were conceived.” Product repair, refurbishment, and remanufacturing are all considered to be re-use operations (Ijomah and Danis 2012), and are often environmentally preferable to material recycling and manufacturing of new products by saving resources, reduction of global warming potential, and safer handling of toxic materials (Sundin and Lee 2012).

To realize these resource and environmental benefits, it is vital for any re-use operation to generate and sustain markets for the products that have been re-used. The micro-economic literature on the effectiveness of re-use markets points to the ability of the involved market actors to reliably signal quality, as this is critical in raising the confidence of customers in the re-used products (Zajko and Hojnik 2018). Consequently, wider public awareness; branding and reputation; and product warranties have to be developed to generate the right conditions for a market for re-used equipment to flourish. Increased public awareness of re-used product specifications can be achieved through public campaigning and environmental or quality labelling (O’Connell and Fitzpatrick 2013).

Matsumoto (2010) outlines certain prerequisites for the successful deployment of re-use business, which define the patterns of re-use markets. These prerequisites determine the potential degree of diffusion of re-used products in the market. Firstly, the properties of a product can make it suitable for re-use or not. Such properties include products that (a) have high value at end of use; (b) have relatively long life cycles, and (c) are distributed through business-to-business channels (Lacy and Rutqvist 2015), for instance automotive parts and aviation equipment. Although ICT equipment might not fulfil all these properties, it still represents a large share of the re-use and remanufacturing market in Europe (ERN 2015). Furthermore, the re-use industry relies on the supply of used products and thereby depends on collection from various and diverse sources (Guide and van Wassenhove 2001), not only business-to-business. Another prerequisite for re-use businesses is that re-use operations make sense from a cost-benefit point of view. Finally, consumer preferences consist a critical factor for the uptake of re-used products.

Although the market for re-used ICT equipment is gradually growing, factors impeding its growth potential are mainly the limited supply of ICT equipment for re-use and consumer perceptions (Dalhammar and Milios 2016). In Sweden, for instance, remanufacturing of ICT has been supported through initiatives such as municipalities purchasing larger volumes of remanufactured computers for school pupils and administrative staff (Crafoord et al. 2018). The remanufacturers have high confidence in their remanufactured products, often offering a one-year warranty, and claiming that high-quality remanufactured computers are better than cheap new computers. Interviews with municipalities that have purchased and used remanufactured computers indicate general satisfaction with the quality of the products, and significant reduction in ICT-related costs (Crafoord et al. 2018).

There are several barriers preventing the development of the market for re-used ICT products for private consumers (for an overview of barriers, see Kissling et al. 2013; Whalen et al. 2018), and one of the main ones that is encountered consistently in the literature is related to consumer perceptions and attitudes towards re-used products. Lack of consumer confidence in re-used products is directly linked to purchasing decisions. To overcome this specific set of barriers, it is important to understand first the specificities of consumer perceptions and whether the use of a labelling scheme to address consumer concerns can be an effective policy approach to lift this barrier and facilitate the uptake of re-used ICT products.

Therefore, the overall aim of this study is to investigate the potential of establishing a comprehensive labelling scheme for re-used ICT products. The goal of such a scheme would be to boost the confidence of consumers regarding the quality perception of re-used ICT, and consequently support the market for re-used ICT equipment. The study employs an exploratory approach for assessing how a labelling scheme could be designed and promoted so as to be suitable for communicating the benefits of re-use and remanufacturing of ICT products. The study focuses on a single country of limited market size (Sweden), but the outcomes are expected to inform wider environmental policy processes, since Sweden is considered to be a pioneer and role model in promoting new environmental policies, particularly demand-side policies (Jänicke 2005; Dalhammar and Mundaca 2012; Leire and Dalhammar 2018). Sweden has been identified as a pioneer in sustainable procurement practices (Kahlenborn et al. 2011) as well as in eco-labelling (Lange et al. 2014). Interviews with industry stakeholders indicate that Sweden is one of the first European markets that manufacturers scan to identify novel public procurement criteria that could eventually be applied also in other jurisdictions (Dalhammar and Leire 2017). There is a strong element of cross-country learning related to policies such as eco-labelling and public procurement, not least within Europe. The European Commission is promoting this process through establishing European public procurement criteria and through spreading information about best practices in EU Member States to act as benchmarks for other countries to follow (Kahlenborn et al. 2011).

The following sections present a brief literature review of the relevant topics on consumer perceptions of re-used products, consumer policy and environmental labelling, and public procurement practices. The methodology is then outlined and followed by the results. First, relevant existing re-use labelling initiatives are analysed and compared. Then, building on interviews conducted with Swedish actors, we discuss the most decisive factors for implementing a Swedish ICT re-use labelling scheme. The article ends with conclusions and suggestions for further research.

Consumer Perceptions of Re-used Products and Environmental Labelling

Consumer Perceptions of Re-used Products and the Need for Information

There is considerable consumer resistance to buying re-used products (Abbey et al. 2015b; Hazen et al. 2017). Consumers often have the perception that these products have a lower quality than the equivalent new ones (Abbey et al. 2017; Guiot and Roux 2010; Hazen et al. 2017). Traditionally, the lower price of second-hand goods was thought to make up for the perceived lower quality, and increased the attractiveness of remanufactured products (Debo et al. 2005). This spurred a substantial amount of research dedicated to the optimal pricing of these products (Abbey et al. 2015a; Ovchinnikov 2011). Regarding the re-use of ICT, especially mobile phones, new features are often of high importance to the consumer (Ylä-Mella et al. 2015).

Consumers’ willingness to pay for re-used products differentiates with regard to the perceived risk that the products are of lesser quality, either functionally or cosmetically (Abbey et al. 2017). Abbey et al. (2017) identify (a) lifespan, (b) features, (c) performance, and (d) serviceability as important underlying factor of consumers’ perceived quality of remanufactured products. Hazen et al. (2012) find a relationship between the consumers’ “tolerance for ambiguity”, i.e., tolerance of the absence of information required to understand a situation—in this case, the remanufacturing processes and product properties—and their willingness to pay for remanufactured products. It is also shown that the tolerance of ambiguity is related to perceived quality, which in turn is related to the willingness to pay (Hazen et al. 2012).

Guiot and Roux (2010) find that consumers perceive a high risk when buying certain types of second-hand products such as household appliances, computers, televisions, and audio equipment. One cause behind this is suggested to be the inconsistent claims from sellers. Guiot and Roux (2010) advocate for the need to provide more guarantees (i.e., warranties) and technical documentation. This is confirmed by a recent study by Watson et al. (2017) that identified a significant lack of consumer awareness regarding the length of guarantee periods provided by the manufacturers, and a general lack of knowledge of consumer protection rights. Watson et al. (2017) suggest enforcing a requirement for retailers to inform consumers of their rights, as well as introducing mandatory labelling of the warranty on the products’ packaging, relevant to the country of sale, as different countries have differentiated legal warranty periods (Maitre-Ekern and Dalhammar 2016).

Environmentally aware consumers constitute a consumer segment that represents a business opportunity for the ICT re-use and remanufacturing industry. However, studies indicate that this consumer segment seldom recognizes the environmental benefits of re-used, repaired, and remanufactured electronic products in particular (Abbey et al. 2015b; Guiot and Roux 2010; Michaud and Llerena 2011). Providing consumers with information regarding the environmental benefits may increase their willingness to pay for remanufactured products (Michaud and Llerena 2011; Wang et al. 2018).

It is observed that consumers’ perceptions of product quality and their willingness to pay are influenced by the reputation of the seller (Guiot and Roux 2010), the provision of warranties (Watson et al. 2017), and labelling (Michaud and Llerena 2011). Of the latter two, despite both having equal potential to influence consumer behaviour, in this study, we concentrate on investigating environmental labelling in relation to product re-use.

Consumer Policy and Environmental Labelling

Thøgersen (2005a) argues that an important goal of consumer policy is to empower consumers to make informed choices by means of providing sound and adequate information. Previous studies on consumer empowerment through information policies demonstrate that “environmental policy packages” tend to affect individual behaviour more when they are implemented in combination with related environmental infrastructure improvements (OECD 2008). A strong policy direction towards sustainable consumption by a government can be demonstrated by interventions in a broad range of policy areas, including transport policy, energy policy, and tax policy (Thøgersen 2005a). On the other hand, governments tend to be conservative and risk-averse in their policy decisions, as Jackson (2006) points out, with the modern liberal social structure being bound to the notion of freedom of choice regarding consumption. Therefore, policies to promote sustainable consumption could only be effective when technological development, economic structures, and information are all in accordance with each other, which potentially could happen when sustainable consumption does not conflict with economic growth (Christensen et al. 2007).

Environmental labelling and similar information tools are seen as promising means to assist consumer decision-making (Thøgersen 2002). However, studies have concluded that consumers can become easily confused by the amount and diversity of information (Leire and Thidell 2005; Salzman 1997). Still, over the last two decades, a large number of eco-labels and certification schemes have been implemented (Gruere 2015). The mandatory EU Energy Label, for instance, has indeed proven to be an effective tool, especially as it is combined with binding requirements on product energy efficiency performance (Dalhammar et al. 2018; VHK 2016). The binding requirements remove the worst-performing products from the market whereas the energy label allows consumers to choose among the lawful products. However, research indicates that while consumers can understand the scale of the energy label (built on an A–F scale with colours supporting the letters, e.g., dark green for A-labelled products), they usually cannot understand more complex information provided on the label such as estimated yearly energy consumption (Waechter et al. 2015). The European Commission added signs to the letters (e.g., A+, A++, and A+++) to allow the labelling scheme to keep up with quick improvements of energy efficiency performance among products on the market, and this affected the level of understanding among consumers (for more details, see Ölander & Thøgersen 2014; Waechter et al. 2015). To clear out any misunderstandings, the European Union revised current practices and adopted a more consumer friendly energy labelling design (through Regulation (EU) 2017/1369).

There are certain preconditions that need to be fulfilled, and sufficient time allowed for the diffusion of the label in the relevant market, for a labelling scheme to have the intended effect (Thøgersen 2002). A basic precondition for the success of a label is that consumers trust the label. Usually, a commercially independent third party and multi-stakeholder involvement are critical for building up trust and boosting the uptake of a labelling scheme (Horne 2009). Another equally important precondition is that consumers can recognize and understand the label (Van Dam and Reuvekamp 1995). Uncertainty about the meaning of a label, or about the issuing authority, may severely impair consumers’ trust in the label. Generally, consumers are attracted to simple eco-labels that convey directly the required message, but sometimes simplicity can undermine the efficacy of environmental claims (Horne 2009). Furthermore, Horne (2009) presents some additional characteristics that an eco-label should ideally possess for increasing effective uptake. Firstly, it has been observed that self-funded voluntary eco-label schemes can suffer from poor and slow processes that result in decline of reputation and uptake. Therefore, a mandatory label scheme would be a preferable option, since generally these enjoy broad recognition and support among consumers, and provide a level playing field for producers. Secondly, government involvement in eco-labels generally improves uptake, and governments can use eco-labelling in conjunction with other mechanisms such as procurement policies to support the eco-label schemes.

No matter how a labelling scheme is designed, sociological and environmental studies demonstrate that provision of information does not necessarily lead to changes in attitudes, and even when it does, the change does not always translate into behaviour change (Mont and Power 2010). A great deal of everyday consumption takes place around common social practices which are not centred on apparent consumption, but around practice norms (McKenzie-Mohr and Smith 1999). Consequently, changes in purchasing norms and habits of consumption may not come straight from the use of an eco-label, which applies only to a small group of products (Horne 2009). To overcome this behavioural barrier, Thøgersen (2005b) explains the different ways in which information provision can lead to a behavioural change. Information, first and foremost, must be able to create attention and capture the interest of the consumer. In a media-congested modern society, to grasp the importance of an issue and to be able to discern its importance among other diverse signals is paramount. Once the issue is highlighted, the information provided must be able to create positive attitudes towards a behavioural solution. This means that consumers not only need to know about a certain issue, but also to be given appropriate information on how to deal with this issue. Only then does it appear possible that positive attitudes can be transformed into behavioural change related to the issue at hand. Therefore, label information provision would need to transcend the everyday practice norms of individuals so as to act effectively towards behavioural change.

Public Procurement and Environmental Labelling

Green public procurement (GPP) is the process whereby public authorities seek to procure goods and services with a reduced environmental impact (European Commission 2008). GPP has been practised since the 1990s in Sweden and other OECD countries, but there is still a significant unrealized potential to use it in a more coordinated manner to reach sustainability objectives, contributing to the increase of resource efficiency and the realization of a circular economy (Milios 2018).

Critical factors that can influence the outcomes of GPP include strategy and goals of the procuring authority; setting of specific requirements for a purchase; associated costs; the size of the procuring organization; and knowledge and information of the procurement department related to type and function of product availability, including relevant standards and certifications (Grandia et al. 2013; Lundberg et al. 2015).

Environmental criteria in the procurement of ICT equipment have been applied for several years. However, the nature of the criteria has changed over time. In Sweden, early adopted criteria focused on energy efficiency of ICT and chemical content, whereas more recent criteria relate to social issues in supply chains and conflict minerals (Leire and Dalhammar 2018). There is also an emerging interest in developing criteria for increasing the life span of ICT products (Crafoord et al. 2018).

As Sweden is a member of the EU, public procurement in Sweden is regulated by EU Directive 2014/24/EU. This means that Swedish authorities can decide which criteria to use in procurement, but all procurement processes and criteria must comply with EU rules. The use of labels in public procurement is regulated in article 43 (Directive 2014/24/EU). In the newly published EU GPP Criteria for Computers and Monitors (European Commission 2016), section 4.2 concerns end of life management. Labelling can also facilitate easier procurement processes without the requirement of expert knowledge on end of life management from the procuring authorities. This is also reiterated by Frankl et al. (2005), who recommend using environmental labelling in conjunction with public procurement.

Method

This study has a qualitative and comparative research design, as the overall aim and research objectives focus on perceptions and attitudes (Bryman 2012). By making a qualitative comparison of existing initiatives regarding re-use, refurbishment, and remanufacturing of ICT products and studying the specific Swedish market and policy context for this product category, the aim is to analyse the possibility of introducing a similar initiative in Sweden. As such, the research approach follows inductive reasoning.

The scope of the study is limited to Sweden as a case for the implementation of a prospective certification scheme for re-use of ICT equipment. The selection of the specific geographical context is due to the expressed interest among Swedish remanufacturers for the development of such a scheme. Also, in previous studies on the subject of remanufacturing (Dalhammar and Milios 2016) and public procurement (Crafoord et al. 2018) of ICT equipment in Sweden, it was demonstrated that there is a need for the development of such a scheme—standardizing quality and minimum performance criteria—by industry and public authorities alike. Additionally, there is a strong trend in the policy debate to increase the “circularity” of the Swedish economy by promoting measures for re-use, as expressed in a public inquiry in 2017, which proposed several policy measures for this purpose (SOU 2017).

The results of this study present a snapshot of how a Swedish labelling scheme could be designed. Therefore, the results are not to be viewed as generalizable and transferable per se to other markets or policy contexts. However, as discussed in the introduction, it is likely that Swedish practices could—if successful—spread to other countries. Although case studies are criticized for lack of generalizability, they are useful at providing in-depth descriptions (Yin 2009) as well as context-dependent knowledge, providing a more “nuanced view of reality” (Flyvbjerg 2006).

The research process followed consecutive stages, from (1) the preliminary listing of relevant certification and labelling initiatives for re-use; to (2) the selection and comparison of the most relevant initiatives of interest; and concluding with (3) the potential characteristics and application of a labelling scheme for re-used ICT equipment in the Swedish context. Initially, a comprehensive identification and categorization of existing initiatives (labelling schemes, standards, and other guidelines), aiming at improving re-use, refurbishment, remanufacturing, and recycling of electronic products, was performed. To identify the existing initiatives, a literature search was conducted using common web search engines (e.g., Google and Google Scholar), using the search terms: eco-label electronics, remanufacturing labelling, re-use labelling. For every initiative identified, several characteristics were further researched, such as scope and included criteria, organizational aspects, link to national and international authorities, and link to private and public procurement.

Following the identification of a long list of relevant initiatives (Table 1), in the next stage of the study, only a small number of initiatives were selected for detailed description, resulting in a comparative analysis of these selected initiatives. Criteria applied in the process of selecting initiatives for a more thorough study included (1) the relevance to the Swedish market context, and (2) the number of product quality aspects covered in the schemes’ criteria. Consequently, the initiatives included in the detailed descriptions represent a strategic purposive sample (Bryman 2012). The analysis of each of the selected schemes was conducted using a coding scheme including themes of interest to be identified in all relevant sources (Bryman 2012). The following themes were identified: visual inspection; electrical safety test; data eradication; functionality; specific product category tests; cleaning; licenced operative system; segregation of product flow; transportation requirements; warranty certification; and product label.
Table 1

Identified initiatives regarding re-use, repair, and remanufacturing of electronic products

Initiative

Area

Governing organization

Type of initiative

Scope

Overall aim

Other comments

Reference

EN 50614 Preparing for re-use

Europe

CENELEC

Standard

Re-use of EEE

Implementation of the WEEE directive 2012/19/EU

Part of a set of European standards EN on WEEE

(in ‘t Groen et al. 2017)

WEEELABEX

Europe

WEEE Forum

Standard (set of three standards)

All forms of WEEE (including re-use)

Implementation of the WEEE directive 2012/19/EU

Will be replaced by the EN set of standards (above)

(WEEE Forum 2013)

PAS 141

UK

BIS

Process management specification

Re-use of EEE

Product quality and safety

Formerly also a certification scheme and label

(WRAP 2016)

WRAP–product protocols

UK

WRAP

Guidelines on testing product quality

15 product categories of EEE

Product quality

Developed to be used in the PAS 141 framework

(WRAP 2016)

Approved Re-use Centres–FRN enterprises

UK

FRN

Standard

All re-use products

 

Only non-profit organizations

(FRN n.d.)

ICT Asset Recovery Standard

International

ADISA

Standard

Re-use ICT products

Data eradication, sanitation

 

(ADISA 2017)

Code of good practice for the re-use of (W)EEE

Belgium, Flanders

OVAM

Guideline

8 product categories of EEE

Product quality, safety, environmental performance

 

(OVAM 2012)

Revisie (Since 2017 “Devices with guarantee”)

Belgium Flanders

KOMOSIE

Product label

Re-use of EEE

Product quality and safety

Based on the code of good practice for re-use of (W)EEE

(De Kringwinkel 2017)

Reuse-Computer e.V.

Germany (Berlin area)

Re-use-Computer e.V.

Standard scheme and quality label

Re-use of ICT

Product quality

 

(ReUse-Computer e.V. 2004)

Revolve

Scotland

Zero Waste Scotland

Standard Shop label

All re-use products

Product quality, safety, customer service

Re-use quality standard for shops

(Zero Waste Scotland n.d.-a, n.d.-c, n.d.-d)

Envie Garantie

France

Envie Roanne

Brand/label

Re-use EEE, mainly domestic appliances

 

(Envie Roanne n.d.)

ReVital

Austria (Upper part of the country)

OÖ Landesabfallverband

Brand/label

Several product group except cloths

Product quality, safety.

Customer service

Only non-profit organizations

(OÖ Landesabfallverband 2011)

Canadian Electronics Re-use and Refurbishing Standard (ERRS)

Canada

EPRA

Standard

Re-use and Refurbishment of EEE

Product quality

 

(EPRA 2016a, b)

The e-Stewards Standard for Responsible Recycling and Re-use of Electronic Equipment

International

BAN

Standard

Recycling and re-use of electronic equipment.

Responsible recycling

Supported by and developed on initiative of the US EPA

(Basel Action Network 2013)

The Responsible Recycling (“R2”) Standard for Electronics Recyclers

International

SERI

Standard

Recycling and re-use of electronic equipment

Responsible recycling

 

(SERI 2013)

Guideline on Environmentally Sound Testing, Refurbishment & Repair of Used Computing Equipment

International

PACE Working Group

Guideline

Re-use of Computing equipment

Environmentally sound re-use

Supported by UNEP, BASEL

(PACE Working Group 2011)

Finally, the focus of the research was redirected to assessing the possibility of application of such initiatives in the Swedish context, aiming at making suggestions on the potential of a comprehensive labelling scheme for re-used ICT equipment in Sweden. This part of the study consisted of several semi-structured interviews with a strategic selection of Swedish stakeholders, such as companies in the ICT sector, public procurement officers, and the governing organization of an existing labelling scheme for ICT products (Table 3). The selection was based on snowball sampling, a non-probability sampling method (Bryman 2012). The design of the semi-structured interviews purposefully included open-ended questions in order to capture the diversity of opinion among the different stakeholders in the sector. Individual interview guides were used, as the interviewees are engaged in different parts of the re-use process. Because the interviewees were geographically dispersed, the interviews were made by telephone. All interviews were recorded and thematically transcribed.

Regarding interviews with the various European schemes, the same interview protocol was used for all interviews and the main interview questions, including the reason for initiating the scheme/perceived market needs; how it is organized; inspiration from other European initiatives; the selection of criteria; link to public procurement; dissemination on the market/estimation of effects; and reasons for success/lack of success. The average time for the interviews were one hour.

The main interview questions related to perceived need for a quality label in Sweden; what should be communicated in a label; what criteria to include (only quality or also safety, integrity of user data, environmental and social implications, etc.); advantages and disadvantages of labelling the product versus the organization; how a scheme should be initiated and organized (and by whom); need for support from the public sector and industry associations; and how a scheme could be linked to public procurement activities. The Swedish interviews lasted on average one hour; the exceptions were interviews with the Swedish procurers and ATEA, which took approximately 40 min.

When we brought up the potential introduction of a quality labelling scheme in Sweden, we used open-ended questions to avoid “steering” the interviewees, for instance formulated in this manner: “Would any type of performance/quality assurance certification, such as a quality label for re-used/recycled IT, help you to purchase/communicate/market1 re-used / re-used IT equipment?”

Existing Initiatives for Re-use Certification

Identifying existing initiatives related to re-use certification was the first step in this study. An overview of the identified initiatives is presented in Table 1. Similar initiatives exist in other parts of the world as well, such as Korea and China (Kang et al. 2016), but the selection in Table 1 is limited to initiatives in Europe and North America, as the legal situations in these regions are comparable and largely compatible with that of Sweden. This study was limited to analysing labelling schemes and standards addressing re-use, refurbishment, and remanufacturing of electronic products with focus on ICT equipment. As a result, the conclusions are not intended to be generalized to other product categories.

From the long list of initiatives, more detailed descriptions are presented in the following sub-sections of four selected initiatives deemed to be of most relevance to the purposes of this study. The descriptions are based on document analyses and interviews, concluding with a comparative analysis of the four initiatives and the main lessons learned.

PAS 141 Re-use Standard

The standard was initiated in 2011, commissioned by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), together with industry, in the UK. PAS 141 is still available as a process management specification for operations in the sector of re-use of Waste Electric and Electronic Equipment (WEEE). However, as a certification scheme, it was terminated in 2016 (WRAP 2016). For further details on included criteria in the standard, see Table 2. WRAP provides protocols for 15 electronic product categories (such as desktop computers and laptops, mobile phones, etc.), which are included in PAS 141. All protocols set out the minimum requirements and test specifications for EEE to be considered fit for re-use (WRAP 2016). It was a third party certification scheme and the certification bodies had to be accredited by UKAS, the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (WRAP 2016).
Table 2

Product quality criteria included in the initiatives. A (+) indicates the inclusion of the specific criteria, and a (−) indicates the absence of the specific criteria

 

PAS 141

Revisie

Revolve

ReVital

Visual inspection

+

+

+

+

Electrical safety test

+

+

+

+

Data eradication

+

+

+

Full functionality

+

+

+

+

Specific product category tests

+

+

Cleaning

+

+

+

Licenced operating system

+

+

+

Transport requirements

+

+

+

+

Segregation of product flows

+

Product label

+

+

+

Warranty

28 days

12 months

6 months

Certification/audit process

Third party

Second party

Third party/second party

Second party

Reference

BSI 2011

OVAM 2012

Zero Waste Scotland, n.d.-b

KERP 2009

The industry expert interviewed for the PAS 141 standard noted that the way the scheme was organized made it onerous for the re-use companies to obtain the certification. PAS 141 certification bodies had to undergo a quite time-consuming and costly process to get accredited by UKAS and usually this cost passed on to the re-use companies to which the certification bodies sold their services. This made the cost of certification prohibitive for many companies and only a few obtained certification. Moreover, as the scheme was voluntary, there was no legislative push for the companies to get certified.

To create a wider recognition for PAS 141, the steering group and the administration tried to engage with public procurement. The standard was introduced at several events to encourage local authorities to request PAS 141 when procuring re-used items. However, this did not generate the desired effect, probably due to the agencies’ priorities and the fact that re-used equipment in general is such a small part of overall procurement.

Code of Good Practice for the Re-use of (W)EEE/Revisie

The Code of Good Practice for Re-Use of (W)EEE is a regional legislation in Flanders, Belgium (OVAM 2012). Since 2017, all organizations preparing EEE for re-use must conform to the Code of Good Practice. Responsible for the initiative is the public waste agency of Flanders (OVAM). For more details on included criteria in the Code of Good Practice, see Table 2.

The former label, Revisie, was only used in a project governed by KOMOSIE (a network organization for environmental entrepreneurs in the social economy) at a few of the “De Kringwinkel” shops.2 The overall quality management approach was based on the European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM) model (Premm 2012). The product quality criteria used in the Revisie project (De Kringwinkel 2017) are now incorporated in the Code of Good Practice (OVAM 2012) and a new label called “devices with guarantee” has replaced the old label. A sticker is placed on the products and complementary information is given to the buyer when larger EEE items are bought. The label is primarily targeting private consumers.

The “De Kringwinkel” shops sell almost no ICT products due to expensive software licensees (a requirement in the Code of Good Practice) and a general lack of skills required for repair operations, as they are part of the social labour market (interview with Revisie officer). Audits at “De Kringwinkel” are performed by KOMOSIE and by the public waste agency of Flanders, every fourth year. Exactly how the audits of re-use organizations will be structured, after the legal obligation entered into force, was not yet decided at the time of the present analysis.

Revolve Standard

Revolve is a Scottish national re-use quality standard available to shops in Scotland selling second-hand goods (Zero Waste Scotland n.d.-a). The standard was developed by Zero Waste Scotland together with the Community Recycling Network Scotland, a membership body for community organizations managing waste resources at a local level (Scottish Government 2016). While previously managed by the Community Recycling Network Scotland, the standard is currently governed by the organization Zero Waste Scotland. Zero Waste Scotland is funded by the Scottish government and the EU Regional Development Fund (Zero Waste Scotland n.d.-b). All organizations engaged in re-use based in Scotland can be accepted for accreditation. The main market need addressed by the standard is to encourage confidence in consumers to buy second-hand products, targeting both the general public and the local authorities’ procurement.

The accreditation process consists of two main stages, an “entry stage” and a “quality improvement stage” (Zero Waste Scotland n.d.-c). The entry stage checks whether the organizations are legally compliant and have assessed all risks. The quality improvement stage aims at creating a culture of professionalism and continuous improvement and takes about 6 months. To achieve the Revolve accreditation, an organization must achieve the EFQM “Committed to Excellence” award and participate in the Revolve retail programme, including passing the Revolve retail audit (Zero Waste Scotland n.d.-c). The EFQM is externally validated by Quality Scotland3 and is a third party certification. The retail programme and audit are also provided by an external contractor (interview with Zero Waste Scotland). For more details on included criteria in the Revolve standard, see Table 2.

The Revolve project developed their own “preparing for re-use” standard based on trading standards. For electronic equipment, the WRAP product protocols (WRAP 2016) are used as a baseline with some of their own supplements.

ReVital Label

The ReVital project is a regional network, product label, and retail shop label established in the region of Upper Austria. The network consists of drop-off centres, a processing plant, and several outlets (OÖ Landesabfallverband 2011). The label is owned by the waste management association of Upper Austria (OÖ Landesabfallverband). The project was initiated in 2009 after visiting the Revisie project in Flanders (see description above). In addition to electronics, furniture and sports and leisure equipment are also collected and sold under the label. Licence to operate under the ReVital label is given to the shops and repair partners who must comply with certain quality standards and pay a licence fee of four eurocents per kilogramme of products sold (interview with OÖ Landesabfallverband).

The products sold under the label must meet certain simple quality standards such as being “attractive in appearance” and “complete and undamaged” (OÖ Landesabfallverband 2011). EEE are also tested for functionality and electrical safety based on the guidelines on re-use of EEE from KERP (2009) (OÖ Landesabfallverband 2011). For more information on included criteria in the ReVital label, see Table 2.

No standardized audits are performed, although OÖ Landesabfallverband can visit the shops and repair partners for control. The label is an important instrument with a view to creating demand for re-used products because it guarantees the products’ quality. The label is not used in procurement and primarily targets private consumers (interview with OÖ Landesabfallverband).

The label has quality criteria for products, but also for the shops selling the products. The aim of the label is to establish a network of collection points, refurbishment centres, and re-use shops under a common logo and quality assurance system.

Comparative Analysis of the Selected Initiatives

All initiatives require a visual inspection, electrical safety test, and functionality test. Only two initiatives, Revolve and PAS 141, have specifications of tests for different product categories, such as functionality testing of certain components. Most initiatives require data eradication, warranty, and a licenced operating system.

Overall findings from our inspection of the four selected initiatives indicate that a wide recognition of a label or brand among consumers is crucial to generate an increased demand for re-use. The “De Kringwinkel” shops, using the Revisie label, and ReVital are especially good examples, as indeed emphasized by the interviewees. Regarding PAS 141, the interviewed expert noted that both marketing targeting consumers buying re-used EEE and re-use organizations applying for the certification are of importance to the success of such initiatives.

Moreover, closely linked to the marketing aspect is the importance of networks. Dietrich et al. (2014) discuss the significance of re-use networks in increasing the re-use of ICT, for example in marketing practices and by developing quality control schemes and product labels. Premm (2012) also discusses marketing as an important aspect of the success of re-use networks. A credible network supporting a label, including public authorities and re-use organizations, would be one way to avoid expensive and time-consuming verification processes. This is apparent in the Revolve and Revisie projects both of which provide credibility without being third party certification schemes. Additionally, a network might increase consumer demand under the condition that public and private procurers are consulted during development and provided with information about the scheme. Thus, public procurement can become a driver of demand of the label (Frankl et al. 2005). This possibility is highlighted by the PAS 141 and the Revolve.

The label must be specific for ICT, or include specific criteria for ICT products, to provide a proper quality assurance of ICT products. A general labelling scheme, e.g., ReVital certifying retailers selling all re-use products, does not sufficiently cover the most important aspects to quality for ICT equipment. A standard or label covering EEE, such as PAS 141 and The Code of Good Practice for Re-Use of (W)EEE/Revisie, is more specific and covers more aspects. One possibility is to use different criteria for different product groups, and adopt the use of the WRAP (2016) product protocols used by Revolve and PAS 141.

A relevant question is, of course, whether consumers trust a label more that guarantees product quality or a retailer label for retailers who sell quality re-used products, and the relative merits or marketing retailers and/or products. One of the aims of the ReVital label was to establish a network of re-use shops bearing a common logo and quality assurance system. So while it has elements of retailer branding, it also applies basic criteria for products, aiming to instil confidence in the retailers operating under the ReVital umbrella. In food retail, an emerging trend is that traditional eco-labelling and certification schemes are complemented—or replaced—by “best practice” standards for products that bear retailers’ own logo, and in some cases existing third party eco-labels are complemented with private eco-brands certified by alternative standards instigated by retail organizations (Chkanikova and Lehner 2015). There are indications that private eco-branding can increase consumer demand by enhancing consumer trust in eco-labelled products, by applying multiple certification and requiring higher frequency of supplier audits (Chkanikova and Lehner 2015). However, the food retailing sector is much more mature than the second-hand/re-use ICT sector, and efforts to market quality-labelled re-used ICT products are still in their infancy. Further, the volumes on the second-hand markets for ICT are hardly large enough to allow for costly certification and labelling schemes. There is evidence that purchasing second-hand vintage clothes is fashionable, but it is likely that consumers of second-hand ICT are more price-sensitive, and since product labelling is very costly, retailer labelling might be a feasible alternative.

Finally, the funding of a labelling scheme of re-used EEE, or specifically ICT, can be a challenge. All initiatives except PAS 141 are to a large extent funded by public authorities. The problem with the expensive organization of the former third party certification scheme of PAS 141 was identified soon after it was launched (Quariguasi-Frota-Neto et al. 2014). The need for a certification scheme can be also created legally, as exemplified by OVAM and The Code of Good Practice for Re-Use of (W)EEE/Revisie.

Generally, the various schemes indicate a need for quality certification measures, but as only some of the schemes can be considered successful, the design of the scheme, the network supporting its implementation, and the choice of funding are important issues to consider.

Certification Scheme for Re-use of ICT Equipment in Sweden

This section presents the findings of the interviews with industry representatives, public authorities, and label certifying organizations (Table 3), and discusses the potential organization and characteristics of a labelling scheme for re-used ICT in Sweden.
Table 3

Interviewed stakeholders

Stakeholder

Organization/company

Person interviewed

ICT remanufacturer

INREGO

Sustainability manager

Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM)

Hewlett-Packard

Environmental Manager, European Environmental Programme Manager

ICT re-use supply chain provider

Atea Sverige

Project Manager, Atea Business Assurance

Atea Logistics

Business Development executive

Public authorities

Stockholm County Council

Unit Manager, Service and Process Development

Management leader IT contracts

Stockholm municipality

Contracts Officer, City management Office, Department of Digital Development

Gothenburg municipality

Environmental specialist, Purchase and procurement

Certification schemes

TCO certified

Certification Director

PAS 141

Industry expert involved in the development and running of the scheme

ReVital

Chief Executive Officer

Revolve

Manager

Revisie

Officer, registration, and reusable electrical devices

The interviews aimed at obtaining stakeholders’ perceptions of the need, the scope, and the possible organization of a labelling initiative for re-used ICT equipment. The presentation of findings will follow these themes, by stakeholder group of interest, finishing with an integrated discussion.

The Need for Quality Labelling on Re-used ICT Equipment

ICT Re-use Sector

The interviewed Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) did not experience remanufacturing as a major source of competition to the sales of the company’s new products at the moment, and said that “when societal priorities change and customers’ demands change,” the company will provide remanufactured products on the Swedish market. However, the landscape for remanufacturing companies in the Swedish ICT market is dominated by third party organizations,4 which are generally more supportive of an independent quality labelling scheme than the OEMs. Third party organizations clearly experience a strong need to improve how they communicate the quality of their products. INREGO, the leading ICT remanufacturer in Sweden, explains: “The labelling is needed primarily to assure buyers of the quality of used products.” Another interviewed company in the sector states that the need of a label will increase when the re-use industry of ICT develops and more remanufacturing is taking place, including the replacement of vital product parts such as batteries. Communicating the environmental benefits of re-use and remanufacturing is also considered important, but opinion is not uniform on that matter among third party remanufacturers, with INREGO claiming that it is not as important today as it was a few years back. OEMs, on the other hand, which have to deal with a variety of labels and obligatory product requirements, do not see any need for introducing a new label for re-use, as there are so many existing labels and the risk of brand damage due to unreliable third party remanufacturers is minor.

Public Sector

Interest in the public sector in the development of a quality label for re-used ICT equipment is rising steadily, something all public authority interviewees in this study confirmed. A label would make it easier to procure re-used products, one municipal officer said, since the label can be used as a point of reference in the procurement criteria. Despite the importance of a label, public procurers do face some additional barriers when attempting to procure re-used ICT equipment that cannot be overcome by a label alone, as for example, when procuring large volumes of ICT in a single procurement process, or when specific requirements apply on equipment used in enterprise platforms. Moreover, as several public authorities confirmed in the interviews, they often prefer or request new products, since new technology features are important to the users of the equipment.

Certification Organization

According to the interviewed ICT labelling organization TCO, consumers do not yet experience a need to be reassured of the quality of re-used ICT products as they do not even consider re-use as an option, something also discussed in literature (van Weelden et al. 2016).

The Scope of the Label on Re-used ICT Equipment

ICT Re-use Sector

The interviewed industry actors in the ICT re-use sector highlighted the need for a potential label to be specifically designed for re-used ICT products. ISO certifications, they added, such as 14001 and 9001, do not address the same needs as a labelling scheme for re-used ICT would. The criteria in these certifications refer to management systems and do not cover product quality aspects but organizations’ performance. Furthermore, only large organizations consider these management systems in their procurement practices, and these do not affect small companies or private consumers in purchasing decisions, as an industry representative pointed out.

Moreover, one very important aspect of a re-use label for ICT products concerns whether the label would certify a product, a process, or a company. The industry stakeholders favour a product label certification system, although they recognize that in the current situation in Sweden, it would be very challenging, if not entirely unrealistic.

Certification Organization

Instead of devising a completely new label for re-used ICT products, TCO suggested developing and using existing environmental and sustainability labels for ICT. “TCO Certified” is a sustainability label already covering some aspects of re-use such as social aspects, warranty, supply of repair parts, and product quality. Therefore, additional product durability aspects could be integrated in such a label. The TCO certification director believes it is possible to develop a quality assurance for the sourcing of re-used ICT products but a serious limitation would be to actually find a way to finance it. Finally, TCO argues, the biggest challenge, regardless of the type of certification scheme (i.e., new or existing one), is that every re-used ICT item is unique. It is impossible to be sure of what happened to every single product in its former life cycle.

Public Sector

One of the public authorities interviewed also expressed concerns about the uniqueness of each product, and about which parts of the supply chain a re-use label would eventually be applied to. Otherwise, a label that can promote confidence in the quality of the items, the official said, would be very beneficial for the public purchasing decision-making process.

Organization of a Quality Label on Re-used ICT Equipment

ICT Re-use Sector

Industry actors in the ICT remanufacturing sector argue that a potential labelling scheme should be supported financially by the state through direct funding or subsidies, as the sector consists of small organizations lacking the ability to bear the full cost of implementing such a scheme. Moreover, to uphold the credibility of the certification scheme, third party—i.e., independent—auditing would be required, which is usually expensive. Other ways of funding discussed in the development of the PAS 141 standard were also suggested by the interviewed industry stakeholders, such as fees based on the number of products sold.

Public Sector

Public authorities would favour the development of a label from trusted organizations, ideally with the support of or validation by governmental actors. Furthermore, instructions and recommendations concerning the use of the potential label in procurement tenders would further strengthen the uptake of re-use equipment in purchasing.

Implications of Establishing a Re-use Label for ICT Equipment

Starting off with the identification of possible characteristics and organizational aspects of a re-use label for ICT equipment, it became apparent that there was a need to assess demand. This would most likely be determined by the size of the re-use sector, the demand for visibility of the sector, and the funding capabilities within the sector and other relevant engaged stakeholders. OEMs have long been resistant to the re-use of their products due to the risk of substituting sales at the expense of new products, and to competition with third party organizations (Atasu et al. 2010). However, the interviews revealed an increasing need from the stakeholders in the ICT re-use sector for adopting labelling as a mean to increase visibility and information on product quality. Their opinions are justified in the literature as well, with studies suggesting that the provision of information on the environmental benefits to consumers boosts their willingness to pay for remanufactured products (Michaud and Llerena 2011; Wang et al. 2018). Certain consumer segments are willing to pay more for eco-labelled products (Laroche et al. 2001), and similarly for refurbished products (Harms and Linton 2016).

However, despite the fact that more information and consumer awareness could lead to favourable conditions for acquiring re-used ICT products, public authorities and other large organizations, both public and private, face additional obstacles in their decision-making process. Usually, such organizations require large volumes and uniform specifications of ICT equipment to enable a lean working environment for all employees using common software applications. Since the re-use sector is unable to provide such volumes of uniform ICT equipment, large organizations would almost certainly still prefer to procure new equipment in the majority of cases despite the presence of a quality label, unless the volume sourcing issue is resolved. Moreover, in the interviews, several stakeholders (public and private) confirmed that consumers and purchasers often prefer or request new products, since new technological features are important, in line with previous research findings (Abbey et al. 2015a; Ylä-Mella et al. 2015). This raises the question whether a labelling scheme or certification can ultimately change the behaviour of consumers. To persuade consumers to buy new or re-used products, it is necessary to change their attitudes (Hazen et al. 2017).

Taking into account the documented interest of private (except in the case of OEMs) and public stakeholders in a quality label for re-used ICT products, another important issue is whether the development of a new label is necessary, or an existing label can be adapted to fit the purpose of certifying re-use quality. As outlined in the interview findings, it should be possible to integrate features of product durability in an existing label (e.g., TCO Certified), similar to that of the existing mandatory EU energy labelling scheme where information on durability and reparability has been integrated in certain product categories (Maitre-Ekern and Dalhammar 2016).

Despite the interest in the implementation of a labelling scheme for re-used ICT equipment in Sweden, the number of companies possibly involved is limited to a rather small number (possibly five in all), which is too few to finance the scheme but also too few to get the state to fund such a scheme. On the other hand, a state with a clear road map for transitioning to a resource efficient circular economy, as is the case in Sweden, should consider financing such a scheme. The official Swedish inquiry, presented in 2017, outlined several policies to support re-use and repairs. Most notably, a tax deduction scheme for repairs was proposed, which is currently being evaluated in the Swedish ministries (SOU 2017). In practice, considering the current size of the sector, the cost of establishing a quality certification system, at least initially, would have to be covered by the national authorities. This could be done in conjunction with other policy measures that promote resource efficiency, such as resource efficient public procurement (Horne 2009; Milios 2018). In this way, the municipalities would receive a clear signal, together with the appropriate tools, to make better informed decisions when it comes to procurement of ICT solutions. The utilization of a re-use standard or labelling scheme in public procurement is also supported by the European Commission (2016). Thus, a Swedish example could promote further development of criteria and label at the EU level by creating a policy precedent. Additionally, a first-mover approach from the Swedish state could give the Swedish ICT remanufacturing industry a competitive advantage, at least in the beginning of a potential EU-wide certification scheme. In this direction, the Swedish official investigation into the circular economy (SOU 2017) highlights EEE as the most important area for future analysis regarding an eco-label.

Finally, another relevant issue to emerge from the interviews concerns the potential for confusion about the actual scope of the label. A certification scheme for re-used ICT equipment is likely to be more important than a scheme for re-used products in general. In the eyes of consumers, many risks are associated with re-used and remanufactured products (Guiot and Roux 2010), not least given the uncertainty about the remanufacturing processes and product properties (Hazen et al. 2012). So should a process or company be certified rather than a product, and would that be a guarantee on the quality of the end-product? I.e., is there a link between the process and the end-product? This is a critical issue to be considered in the design of any prospective certification scheme for re-use; it is also mentioned by Quariguasi-Frota-Neto et al. (2014) regarding the development of the PAS 141 standard.

Conclusions and Future Research

Re-use operations that extend product lifetimes have a key role to play in the transition to a circular economy. To enable this transition, appropriately designed administrative, economic and informative policy instruments, ideally applied in a policy mix, can steer consumption choices towards an increased uptake of re-used products, instead of new, and ultimately lead to increased “circularity” in the economy. The introduction of a comprehensive labelling scheme for electronic products has the potential to be a useful policy instrument to increase the re-use of products. Although making more information available does not necessarily lead to more sustainable consumer choices (Leire and Thidell 2005; Mont and Power 2010; Ölander and Thøgersen 2014), environmental labelling has been proven to be a popular policy instrument over the last decades, promoted by multiple actors both public and private (Gruere 2015). To increase the effectiveness of informative policy instruments, such as environmental labels, the combination of labelling with other policy instruments, for instance public procurement, has been recommended (Frankl et al. 2005).

There are several existing initiatives aiming at increasing re-use and remanufacturing of electronic products. The main findings from the analysis of the selected initiatives indicate the need for a wide recognition of the certification scheme in order for it to become a credible and functioning system consumers will trust and use in their purchasing decisions. Therefore, strategic marketing targeting private consumers, procurers, and companies is of high importance. Moreover, the involvement and active participation of networks are also crucial during the development of an initiative. For the development of a certification scheme, it is important to consider funding as the industry is usually not in a position to pay for a system requiring expensive technical and auditing inputs, both up-front and throughout the duration of the certification period. Electronic products, and especially ICT products, require specific criteria to ensure their quality.

Insights from the interviews with Swedish stakeholders on the potential organization and application of a certification scheme for re-used ICT products revealed a trade-off between the information communicated in the labelling scheme and the cost of covering and verifying this information. Certifying a process or company is easier than certifying a product, while the certification criteria for products need to be specific for ICT and possibly also specific by product category. A credible network supporting the label, including public authorities and re-use organizations, could offer a way to avoid expensive verification processes and gain recognition. It is critical at the early stage of label development that public support and funding become available.

Further uptake of the label can be stimulated by public procurement. There is a unique potential to link the label to public procurement requirements, and to produce an effective policy package for municipalities and other public authorities to use. A national agency, for instance the Swedish National Agency for Public Procurement (Upphandlingsmyndigheten), could take the lead in supporting the establishment of criteria and specifications for the label and provide information to public authorities on how to use it in their procurement operations. The Agency, either on its own means or by contracting a third party auditor, could also provide quality audits periodically so as to ensure that certified companies uphold their certification obligations. In the yearly state budget, the increased costs of the Public Procurement Agency’s operations might be fully or partially offset by the reduced costs of procurement in state agencies and other public authorities, as re-used ICT equipment is cheaper than new (Crafoord et al. 2018).

There is great potential for future research in the area of developing a certification scheme for re-used ICT products. Similar to this investigation in the Swedish context, it would be highly relevant to consider the development of a new European standard or certification for “preparing for re-use” of EEE. Currently, several European countries are considering how they can use procurement strategically to support circular economy objectives (Cattolica 2018), and the need for EU-wide initiatives is therefore likely to increase. The development of such a standard or certification at the EU level would impact a large market enabling the re-use sector to grow significantly in the following years, contributing to overall resource efficiency and achievement of the EU’s circular economy goals. Also, another interesting research topic, which resulted directly from the findings of this study, is to investigate the link between a certification scheme of a process or a company and the actual quality of the end-product it delivers. Such a study would resolve the different aspects of the respective approaches and hopefully deliver practical recommendations on the most appropriate use in the case of ICT products. Finally, there is a need to consider the role of labelling in the emerging landscape of European policies promoting longer product lifespans, such as legal guarantees and eco-design rules on durability (Maitre-Ekern and Dalhammar 2016), and how quality labelling can interact with the proposed US and EU initiatives to promote product repairs (Svensson et al. 2018).

Footnotes

  1. 1.

    Depending on the position of the interviewee.

  2. 2.

    De Kringwinkel is a non-profit organization in the social labour market with more than 100 second-hand shops operating in Flanders, Belgium.

  3. 3.

    Quality Scotland is the Scottish National Partner Organisation (NPO) of the European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM).

  4. 4.

    Third party organizations are private or social enterprises undertaking re-use operations, such as re-sell, repair, refurbish, recondition, and remanufacture, that are not related in any way to the OEM of the products they handle.

Notes

Acknowledgements

This research was supported by the Mistra REES (Resource Efficient and Effective Solutions) programme, funded by Mistra (The Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research).

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics (IIIEE)Lund UniversityLundSweden

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