Material & Resource Use
PRODUCT MATERIAL CONTENT
Information technology (IT) devices contain substances that are essential to the functionality and safe use of the product, but some of them can adversely impact ecological and human health when not properly managed. To protect people and the environment, EMC takes a proactive approach to minimizing the use of these substances in our products by researching and, where feasible, substituting alternative materials. We also take measures to prevent these substances from entering the natural ecosystem. To learn more, visit Product End-of-Life.
DESIGN FOR ENVIRONMENT
The EMC® Design for Environment (DfE) program incorporates environmental considerations throughout product design. EMC engineers take what we have learned about the environmental impact of existing product designs and use that knowledge to implement best practices for ongoing design. To learn more, visit Efficient Products.
To eliminate environmentally sensitive materials in our products, viable alternatives must be found. When we believe that a material may be of concern, we take a precautionary approach by exploring alternatives that are safer for ecological and human health. We prioritize the substances to assess, and then collaborate across the industry and academia to identify and qualify alternatives that meet the same or higher standards of reliability, cost-effectiveness, performance, and availability as the materials we currently use. We implement substitutes in new designs where feasible.
Flame retardants in IT products are essential for product functionality and human safety. Halogens are an ingredient in flame retardants commonly used in laminates for printed circuit boards (PCBs), but there are concerns about halogens’ impact on the environment and human health. EMC has been working for several years to identify halogen-free substitutes that meet the rigorous technical requirements for our products.
In 2011, EMC successfully shifted the majority of its new PCBs to a halogen-free material. However, that halogen-free substitute could not be used in our high-performance PCBs, which have more stringent requirements. Because a suitable halogen-free substitute did not exist on the market, EMC decided to develop a solution.
In the spring of 2012, EMC invited chemists and engineers from a PCB manufacturer and a laminate supplier to work with EMC on this challenge. EMC set the vision to identify, test, and implement a new flame retardant that is halogen-free, meets the technical requirements of our high-performance PCBs, and is affordable to implement. EMC’s own experts in PCB design, signal integrity, and electrical and mechanical engineering participated in the project.
By the end of 2012, this collaborative group identified a halogen-free material that meets EMC’s requirements and will be implemented on our high-performance PCBs in 2013.
Originally, EMC was the only customer for these halogen-free substitutes. Today, our suppliers report that there is significant interest from other companies. By driving this effort with our suppliers to identify these substitutes, EMC is not only helping our own business, but also the rest of the industry and the planet’s ecosystem.
EMC participates in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Partnership on Alternatives to Certain Phthalates, a project of their Design for Environment Program. This project has identified eight phthalates of high concern and a list of potential alternatives. We are currently working with our suppliers to evaluate these and other alternatives for use in our products. We are also members of the Green Chemistry and Commerce Council (GC3), which is conducting tests of alternative materials to determine human toxicity. In 2013, we intend to identify substitutes for those eight phthalates identified by the EPA, with the intent to implement changes in 2014.
FULL MATERIAL DISCLOSURE
EMC’s Full Material Disclosure (FMD) database catalogs the substances used in EMC products. This database enables us to quickly and easily identify the presence of substances—when there are new regulations regarding their use—and to respond more rapidly to those requirements. It also helps with identifying where “conflict minerals” (tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold) are used in our products so that we can trace their source. To gather this information, we ask suppliers to identify materials used in every part of EMC products by CAS number (a unique identifier for chemical substances).
Compiling this database is complex due to the vast number of parts in our hardware products, the constant evolution of our product portfolio, and the maturity level of each supplier’s ability to report FMD. We continue to gather this information from our suppliers, adding data for our new products and backfilling data from our older product releases.
MEETING COMPLIANCE AND CUSTOMER REQUIREMENTS
As interest in reducing the environmental impact of IT products has grown, regulations on product material content worldwide have followed. There has also been an increase in requests for information from our customers about specific substances in our products. The initiatives mentioned above are critical to our efforts to stay ahead of government regulations and customer desires, but the proliferation of regulations and the lack of global harmonization can be a challenge. EMC has a governance body that oversees environmental product compliance and regularly anticipates and communicates requirements to our engineering organization and supply chain. In 2013, we plan to further educate our suppliers to help them understand and prepare for the quickly changing regulatory landscape.