The Green Electronics Council plans to expand its EPEAT environmental rating system later this year to include smartphones, the council said Tuesday.
The move could push phone makers to change the way they manufacture, package or distribute their devices because some companies and governments require preference be given to EPEAT-compliant devices when products are purchased.
EPEAT is a rating system intended to help identify greener electronics equipment. The standard for mobile devices is expected to be ready by the end of this year and will be based on Underwriters Laboratories' UL110 standard covering the environmental and human health aspects of a mobile phone's lifecycle. The UL110 standard is currently a draft, and the Green Electronics Council said it's collaborating with the organization to ensure it is suitable for adoption as the basis of the EPEAT standard.
"We want to ensure it's balanced, open and includes participation from the NGO community," said Sarah O'Brien, director of stakeholder engagement at the Green Electronics Council.
The UL110 standard addresses several areas including the materials used in the device, manufacturing and operations at the company, health and environment criteria, packaging, energy use, and end-of-life management and life extension.
Several major phone makers have already contributed to the UL110 standard, including Samsung, HTC, LG, Kyocera and ZTE. It's also attracted the interest of U.S. phone carrier Sprint.
While phone companies don't need to actively support development of the standard, most major manufacturers are expected to evaluate and list their products on the EPEAT registry because of purchasing requirements. For example, the U.S. government mandates that 95 percent of purchases by federal agencies must be of EPEAT-listed products, if they exist for that category of product.
EPEAT currently includes standards for computers and displays, imaging equipment and televisions. Products are given ratings of bronze, silver and gold, and details are listed on its website.
The organization is perhaps best known recently for an incident a year ago in which Apple withdrew products from the green IT registry and then, in the face of public pressure, relisted them. Apple never said why it withdrew the products, although there was speculation that construction techniques for new MacBook computers didn't match EPEAT requirements.
As a result of Apple's action, which made international headlines, EPEAT launched a review of all thin and light laptops including the MacBook machines and found they all complied with its ratings.
Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org