The system, which was developed in collaboration with sustainability consultancy BSR, will cover attributes such as environmentally preferable materials, energy efficiency, responsible end-of-life treatment and environmentally-responsible manufacturing. Device manufacturers will submit an assessment of each device to determine how many of 15 key criteria are met. The criteria cover everything from the percentage of recycled metals used to the restriction on hazardous compounds employed.
The overall rating represents the composite score of these environmental attributes. Consumers will find the eco-ratings labels on AT&T-branded mobile devices or will be able to go online for more details about the ratings, the overall sustainability scale for mobile devices and available products.
According to the company, the system is a direct response to customer wants and needs. In a Deloitte study on consumer trends in the purchase of sustainable products, 54% of shoppers consider sustainability to be one of their decision making factors.
AT&T’s action is commendable, but it seems to me that industry-wide environmental rating systems are far more useful. EPEAT (Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool) from the Green Electronics Council in the US assesses products on a wide range of environmental factors, but so far has focussed primarily on computers and peripherals. Energy star tackles power aspects such as battery rechargers, but not broader environmental product issues.
It would have been more useful in the long run if AT&T had put the effort into trying to promote some industry-wide rating system, particularly since the company’s scheme seems to involve self-assessment. Any ratings system needs to be closely policed to make sure criteria are being met and that’s best achieved by an independent, industry-supported body.