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With the restrictions of the coronavirus lockdown preventing most shops from physically opening, most purchases have moved online.
Meanwhile, the move to home working has seen a surge in demand for some hardware products, including laptops, monitors and headphones.
In an online sales environment, the focus is often on the lowest priced or the best reviewed, with the details about some of the specs buried further down the page. Finding out which products have the best green credentials can also be a challenge when it’s difficult to find that information, and interaction with the seller is reduced to a chatbot.
In an effort to make sure customers continue to buy sustainable products, TCO Development, the organisation behind the sustainability certification TCO Certified, has extended its product finder to cover online products.
Sustainability has been rising back up the customer agenda and before Covid-19 took over the headlines, Microsoft gained plenty of plaudits for its pledge to become carbon negative by 2030.
The firm said it was committed to “remove from the environment all the carbon the company has emitted, either directly or by electrical consumption” since it was founded in 1975.
TCO Development’s moves to promote its online product finder should start to get the sustainability message back on the agenda just a few months after that Microsoft announcement.
If a product is TCO Certified, the user can measure the percentage of post-consumer recycled plastic content, product weight, energy consumption and battery cycles. There is also the option to calculate the carbon emissions and energy costs of using the products. More than 3,500 products are currently certified.
“Measuring the impact of the products you buy and use is critical for any sustainable procurement programme,” said Clare Hobby, global director of purchaser engagement at TCO Development. “The new functions in our product finder offer purchasing organisations a way to do just that.
“Proof and measurement are key for driving sustainability. Placing trust in unverified product claims can put purchasing organisations at risk of greenwash. In addition to the verification in TCO Certified, the new product finder features offer measurable data to purchasers wishing to talk about the sustainability impact of the IT products they use.”
Hobby said that if customers are encouraged to ask for TCO Certified products, it will encourage the industry to continue to improve its sustainability track record.
Speaking to MicroScope about sustainability earlier this year, Louella Fernandes, research director at Quocirca, who has examined the issues in the printer industry, made it clear that users were keen to get an insight into how products were made.
“The days of tick-box sustainability messaging are over,” she said. “Customers need genuine, evidenced data on how they can reduce environmental impact. This should be factored into pre-engagement audits and tender responses and presented as integral to the proposal, not an afterthought. Continuous environmental improvement should be an ongoing commitment during customer engagements.”