Social Compliance Audit For Consumer Electronics


Social Compliance Audit For Consumer Electronics

How should importers of consumer electronics avoid a supply chain which includes suppliers who use child labour, have dirty and unsafe conditions, or who don’t follow labour rules? Here we endeavour to outline how a social compliance audit for consumer electronics can positively position your brand in the market place. Conditions as mentioned above have made themselves all too familiar within the retail supply chain, and the worst part is that many retailers claim that they didn’t even know about this right up until before these tragedies became global news. So how can we prevent this? A social compliance audit. This audit can go a long way in preventing some of the damaging issues many brands of consumer electronic products, and indeed other items, are all too familiar with. Social Compliance Audit For Consumer Electronics A social compliance audit can be difficult to attain, but is an absolute necessity for that transparent supply chain your consumers today are demanding. A social compliance audit ensures that a factory and its practices are abiding by all local laws and that you meet all of the social obligations as set out by the guidelines of the audit, from fair wages to no instances of child labor in a factory. In this blog post, I will outline the exact procedure of this audit, the benefits it offers to your consumer electronics brand and how you can go about conducting this audit for yourself. So, let’s dive in…

What can consumer electronic importers can expect from a social compliance audit?

Consumer electronic brands endeavour toward social compliance for these main reasons;
  • Brand protection
  • To ensure your factory is clean and meets high levels of standards
I have gone on to create a list of what can be expected of a social compliance audit of your electronics factory, to help you better prepare for this; Onsite inspection – The auditors go around and inspect your factory for health and safety violations, this can also be inclusive of any sleeping quarters that may be on site, which will be relevant to the factory being audited. In the case of consumer electronics, which is less labour intensive, but has more machinery which may cause potential mechanical and electrical hazards. Therefore your auditor will spend more time assessing the safety and working environment, from sufficient fire exits to clear instructions of how to exit the building in the case of an emergency. They will also spend time assessing whether sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) has been made available to each worker. Social Compliance Audit For Consumer Electronics - Document review Document reviews – Auditors will check all the documentation of the supplier to determine the presence of any possible child labour, an all too common violation within the consumer electronics industry. They also assess whether there are any violations of extended working hours and wages. They will also look into what types of social insurance are available to workers and review any fire and safety documentation, which will help to determine whether or not any safety precautions or plans are in place. They will also inspect whether or not there is any environmental monitoring being done and, if so, how it is conducted. Employee interviews – The auditors conduct interviews with the factory in question staff, where they ask them about their working hours, overtime, and about their holiday/leave time. Auditors also like to cross check these statements by interviewing factory management to ensure there are no discrepancies. This helps to clarify whether there are any instances of abuse or misconduct between staff and management. In the case of a re-audit these interviews will then be conducted again to ensure improvement plans are being implemented properly. Closing meeting with audit status – This meeting reveals the audit results of your CE factory and also makes suggestion for improvements. If you use a qualified third party quality management provider to conduct this audit, they will provide you with an improvement plan and customize it according to your needs. Continuous improvement – A reputable third party quality assurance solution provider will provide you with a plan of execution to rectify the shortcomings of a factory. To ensure the factory is executing the suggested improvements there are also unannounced visits by auditors to evaluate the factory’s improvement progress. Factories that attain a clean audit, will only be audited on an annual basis. In factories that achieve marginal results, they are often dropped in on unannounced and also receive audits on an annual basis. Factories that fail will then have a follow up audit again in a few months.

Protecting your electronics brand through a social compliance audit

Attaining a pass on your social compliance audit report is a commitment that your organization makes to ensuring that you are socially responsible and that you are committed to treating your factory’s staff ethically and in compliance with global ethical standards. So the question is… Is your consumer electronics brand committed to achieving an ethically responsible supply chain? Let’s take a look at the standards as laid out by SA8000: The 9 SA8000 social compliance requirements are:
  • Child labour – No children younger than 15 years of age may be employed by any factory.
  • Forced labour – No person may be employed by a factory if they haven’t offered to do so voluntarily or be forced to work under the threat of punishment or retaliation.
  • Health and safety – A safe and healthy workplace environment must be provided by the factory, who should also prevent any potential health and safety incidents and work related injury or illness from occurring. In the case of consumer electronics you would need to ensure that there is sufficient personal protective equipment within factories.
  • Freedom of association and collective bargaining – All staff have the right to form, join and organize trade unions and to bargain collectively on their behalf.
  • Discrimination – A factory is prohibited from engaging in discrimination in hiring, remuneration, access to training, promotion, termination or retirement.
  • Disciplinary practices – A factory is prohibited from engaging in or tolerating the use of corporal punishment, mental or physical coercion or verbal abuse of employees.
  • Working hours – A factory must comply with applicable laws, collective bargaining agreements and industry standards on working hours, breaks and public holidays.
  • Remuneration – The right of staff to a living wage must be respected by the factory.
  • Management systems – Compliance must be reviewed and implemented to the SA8000 standard through developed policies and procedures.
Social Compliance Audit For Consumer Electronics - SA8000 In understanding the ethical compliance standards as laid out above, you are able to make informed decisions about the suppliers you choose to use in the manufacturing of your electrical products. Panasonic and Sony have been caught in supply chain scandals, that have created immense amounts of bad media coverage for the global electronic brands. Accused of unfair labor practices in factories, with vastly underpaid staff and electrical components that are said to be sourced from parts of the world known to be inclusive of child slave labour. With this in the media, consumers will begin to think twice about purchasing your product as they do not want to be affiliated with brands who are not achieving progress toward a transparent, sustainable retail supply chain as laid out by SA8000 guideline. Can your consumer electronics brand afford publicity like this? Achieving your social compliance audit will reduce any potential risks relating to the violations of global ethical standards, which puts your brand in a risky position and can cost your organization public shaming and embarrassment, scarring your brand. Dependent on the severity of the violation it could also cost you millions in lawsuits too. This type of audit provides the desired transparency many consumers are looking for within the retail supply chain. Today’s consumers are becoming more concerned with the way in which products are sourced and manufactured, and rightly so. So what are you doing to maintain consumer trust in your brand?

Who should conduct your factory’s social audit?

Many suppliers choose to conduct their own audits with in house teams, this method is untrustworthy which can produce bias results of the supplier.

Unless you have an extremely good relationship with the supplier in question and know for a fact that they are not going to lie on your audit report, then this way of passing a factory social audit is not our recommendation. Hiring an impartial third party quality management provider may be the answer They are viewed as independent parties with all the technical expertise to be able to produce unbiased reports and provide you with actionable improvement plans for you to progress forward in achieving your factory’s social compliance. factory social audit

Independent audits are also taken into higher consideration by NGO’s and the media to be a truer and an honest reflection of the findings within the factory.

By outsourcing this service you not only are able to protect your brand’s image, but you minimize any potential risks you might face by not having a social audit, that can prove to be costly for your brand in many more ways than just revenue loss. Many consumer electronic factories are still found in violation of unfair labor practices or extensive work hours. This doesn’t have to be… Let’s take a look at what Apple has implemented when underage labor is found within their factories; “If we find underage workers in our suppliers’ factories, we make the suppliers return the children to their homes, pay for their education at a school of their family’s choice, and continue to provide income for basic needs until they reach the legal working age. We also enlist a third-party organization to monitor the children’s progress and report back to us. After they complete their education, suppliers must offer them reemployment. In 2015, we found three cases of underage labor — and we will continue to look for it.” Apple has shown that ethical and fair practice within your factory is not impossible to attain. It will be up to you to implement an appropriate strategy to deal with the social challenges felt within consumer electronic factories. Apple is a global leader for consumer electronics, but is also innovating in the way that they say no to injustices in a supply chain and go above and beyond to achieve an ethical and fair supply chain to produce the high quality electronics that they offer. Are you willing to do what it takes to achieve that transparent supply chain? API can help you attain this goal as your third party auditing partner. Have you undertaken SC audits across your CE supply chain?  If you have any question about factory social audits, feel free to contact us and we will be pleased to answer them and help where we can.

10 Steps Hard Goods Manufacturers Can Take to Save Energy

In the recent years businesses and communities across Asia have been repeatedly shaken by severe weather events with worse damages in decades caused by the destructive power of the accelerating changes in climate. The Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) has concluded that climate change magnifies the risks from natural disasters, increasing the costs of protecting people from negative impacts.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) estimates that the intense rains leading to massive floods in India, Bangladesh, and Nepal bring financial losses of up to $215 billion each year to the region’s economies. The super-typhoons battering Philippines, China, and Hong Kong are disrupting not just local business operations, but also their product supply chains around the globe. ADB projects that 410 million of Asians will be vulnerable to coastal flooding by 2025, while over 60% of the region’s population is currently employed in business sectors that are at high risk of suffering from the impacts of climate change.

The rapidly expanding manufacturing industry in Asia is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas pollution due to high energy consumption, and the region’s share is expected to reach 43% of the world electricity demand by 2030. The welfare losses from the increasing exposure to the industrial emissions are estimated to cost South and South-East Asia equal to 7.5 % of regional gross domestic product. Without radical changes in business operations, Asia and the Pacific could emit 48% of the world’s greenhouse gases during the next decade.  China is now considered the world’s biggest polluter of greenhouse gases, producing 28% of global carbon emissions, more than the United States and Europe combined. The manufacturing industry is the largest energy consumer in China, currently accounting for 56.7% of the total national annual energy consumption. The energy intensity in the Chinese manufacturing industry is high above the global average levels, and the government data shows that China’s electricity consumption has increased by 6.6 percent in 2017, with most of the additional energy supply derived from burning coal, generating drastic amounts of greenhouse gases.

The International Energy Outlook 2018 published by the U.S. Energy Information Administration predicts China will remain by far the world’s leading producer of energy-intensive goods with the projected energy consumption increasing up to 25% by 2040 unless the industry transforms its energy management practices. The resulting greenhouse gas emissions would accelerate climate change posing significant risks to local communities and ecosystems, triggering extreme weather with stronger droughts, winds, and rains, higher sea levels, and warmer oceans creating more powerful storms and coastal damage. The manufacturing industry would suffer serious losses, as its operations are sensitive to high temperatures, extreme weather conditions, and freshwater shortage. Data analysis of half a million Chinese manufacturing plants suggests that accelerating climate change would dramatically lower the output for the Chinese manufacturing sector falling by 12% annually, equivalent to a loss of $39.5 billion in 2007 dollars. As the Chinese manufacturing sector accounts for 32% of the national GDP and supplies 12% of global exports, the impacts on the local and global economies would be substantial.

In the 2015 Paris Agreement, an international treaty on climate change signed by almost 200 countries, China has officially committed to peak carbon emissions around 2030. In its  National Strategy on Energy Production and Consumption Revolution (2016-2030), China set an ambitious energy consumption target of 6 billion tonnes of coal equivalent maximum in 2030.

Complying with the National Strategy and safeguarding the manufacturing industry long-term interests requires decoupling of energy consumption from economic growth, implementing sustainable energy management strategies at the local level, investing in improving industrial energy efficiency capabilities. Sustainable energy management involves systematic continuous efforts to improve energy efficiency through behavioural changes, smart managerial and technological solutions to optimise the company operations. Luckily, these efforts tend to pay off, strengthening the company’s resource security, public image, and long-term economic resilience. The Carbon Trust estimates that a 20% cut in manufacturing energy costs will bring the same bottom line benefits as a 5% increase in sales.

API sustainability experts have developed this step-by-step guide to help manufacturers better understand their business energy performance, risks, and opportunities, implement energy efficiency best practices, and achieve a sustainable return on investment.

1. Assess your energy consumption 

Conduct a detailed documented energy review of your company’s facilities and operations, analyse energy use and consumption data, determine areas of significant energy use, identify opportunities for improving energy efficiency. Energy assessment involves analysis of the historical utility data over a period of 12-24 months with a detailed load breakdown and on-site analysis of significant energy uses, their relevant variables, risks, current energy performance, and identification of workers that influence or affect it to prevent dysfunction and energy waste.  

Create a centralised Energy Management Information System (EMIS) using a specialised software platform with instant online access to energy information, measurement data and costs, details about energy conservation measures, and records of resulting savings. Energy information can be gathered either in real time or reported on a daily basis to determine the current energy performance and identify factors of significant energy consumption, evaluate energy performance against set targets. EMIS facilitates timely informed decisions for effective operational management at the relevant level of your organisation.


Use the information collected from the initial energy review to establish an energy baseline using the historical utility data, recorded energy use trends, and benchmarking. Identify the appropriate energy performance indicators to monitor and measure energy performance against the energy baseline. Use specialised energy and sustainability software portals to document the calculation methodologies, data management processes, change management procedures, greenhouse gas emissions inventories, and associated roles, responsibilities, and timeframe.  

Measure any changes in the energy performance against the identified energy baseline, reassessed and update the baseline annually or when there are major changes to the static factors. The obtained data can be used to report the company’s ongoing energy and environmental performance.


Use the energy information obtained from the energy review assessment to select sites and processes that are using excessive energy and have the potential for energy efficiency improvements. Employ an energy expert to perform a comprehensive on-site audit of facilities and site operations. The auditor should produce a customised action plan specifying no cost, low-cost, and medium cost solutions to reduce energy consumption, as well as areas that require capital-intensive investments in energy efficiency.

Establish an ongoing program of audits and assessments with regular internal auditions at planned intervals to evaluate the dynamics of energy consumption against the energy objectives and targets, assess the effectiveness of the implementation of energy conservation measures, develop corrective actions and preventive actions. Use an energy and sustainability portal to develop consistent audit plans and document the audit results and recommendations. Energy audits should identify individual equipment energy usage share, suggest priority areas for energy and cost reductions, and produce recommendations for further actions for on-site personnel and other corporate sustainability stakeholders.


In collaboration with energy experts, create an effective energy policy highlighting your approach to sustainable energy management, commitment to continual improvement in energy conservation specifying energy performance indicators, objectives, and targets. The energy policy should be accompanied by a document management plan describing the scope, process, and methods for reporting data including calculation methodologies, boundaries, auditing, and verification procedures.

Introduce an Energy Data Collection Plan specifying which data is required to effectively monitor the key characteristics related to significant energy uses such as relevant variables, operational characteristics, and static factors. Specify in what way and at what intervals should the data be collected and documented.


The Energy Management Action Plan determines the responsibilities, resources, time frame, and methods for energy performance measurement, monitoring, evaluation, verification, and reporting. The Plan should include energy strategy communication methods and tools for management, employees, and end-users and awareness training making sure that all employees are competent to perform their roles and receive the appropriate information and training.


Perform ongoing energy assessments to optimise your operational efficiencies: monitor, measure, and analyse the crucial aspects of your operations, significant energy uses, their variables, energy performance indicators, dynamics towards achieving energy reduction objectives and targets using real-time metering tools to collect, log, mine, and analyse energy data. Maintain accessible detailed records of the monitoring results traceable to the relevant activities.

Establish a common automated system that can process the obtained data sets and identify, model, visualise, and evaluate progress to help identify and implement the most viable control measures. Consolidating energy data, modelling production energy consumption, and expert energy analytics of actual performance against the expected energy consumption projections can save you up to 30% of the manufacturing energy costs. Regular monitoring will provide you with valuable statistics on the facility’s energy demand, facilitate forecasting and load aggregation, optimise operating performance, predict energy loads, modify production schedules according to energy demands, control capability, leverage off-peak times, identify power quality issues that can compromise your operations and protect your equipment, predict, assess, and reduce the associated environmental impacts.


Monitor and report operational costs and procurement of energy supply, services, and assets to make informed decisions for further business development. Use financial appraisal tools such as simple payback period calculations or discounted cash flow techniques to assess the net present value and internal rate of return. For capital-intensive projects, use Life Cycle Cost Analysis to calculate the costs and financial savings that may occur over the entire project lifetime to evaluate whether the investment will be profitable in the long-term perspective.   

Based on the calculations of projected cost-savings, devise a sustainable procurement strategy. The calculations of potential energy savings from energy efficiency projects must be verified proving the adequacy of selected measures and ability to deliver the desired results. Introduce a Measurement and Verification process to increase the credibility of energy management within your organisation and ensure the future allocation of resources for implementing energy efficiency projects. The International Performance Measurement and Verification Protocol provides recognized methods and techniques for determining different types of savings across the industrial processes and facilities, describes best practices in savings recording, accurate estimation, and verifiable reporting of energy savings.


Utilize performance-based energy management matrices to review the existing energy management practices within your organization, analyse your operations in terms of energy management, financial allocation, awareness and organization, technical issues. Define clear targets for all activities and prioritize energy management actions.

Manufacturers typically apply three levels of matrices: top level matrix summarising the results for an organization, organisational matrices mapping out activity levels in each of the areas listed above and then feeding results into the top level, and detailed matrices covering all the technologies within the built environment and feeding the results into the second level technical matrix.

9. Get carbon neutral certified

Introducing carbon management programs for your business can help you evaluate, monitor, reduce, prevent, or compensate your greenhouse gas emissions by tracking the dynamics of your carbon footprint and implementing adequate carbon reduction measures. Carbon neutral certifications can significantly reduce your company’s ecological footprint and boost your brand image showing your customers, partners, and investors that your products are environmentally safe and sustainable.

Proactively implementing carbon management work practices helps companies to comply with the increasingly strict national and international environmental regulations. Obtaining recognized certifications and labels for the household goods industry helps  optimize the resource use, reduce the energy demand throughout the product’s life cycle, prevent environmental damage, minimize risks, financial losses, and production costs in the long run.


Seek professional help from energy experts experienced in sustainable manufacturing best practices to build an effective energy management framework for your business.

API is a recognized expert in energy conservation and sustainable manufacturing of household goods with a rich practical experience in strategic energy management and preparation for carbon neutral certification . Our sustainability experts and specialists in household goods can help you develop and implement sustainable management strategies, policies and action plans, achieve legal compliance with environmental legislation, implement long-term carbon reduction initiatives, verify your energy performance and implement international standards.

We specialize in sustainability services, evaluation of manufacturing processes, carbon footprint calculation, life cycle assessment, independent performance verification and validation, sustainable supply chain management, and professional sustainability training.

For more information and guidance, please book an API consultation.

All data is quoted from and belongs to published literature. API does not hold any responsibility for the accuracy, timeliness or validity of any data or information. 


Hardgoods Industry: Environmental Legislation & Standards

The global expansion of the hardgoods industry is creating incredible opportunities for business growth and an unprecedented pressure on communities and ecosystems across all continents.

The hardgoods production has significant impacts on the environment and human health causing extensive pollution, increasing land degradation, destructing wildlife habitats, over-exploiting natural resources, contaminating water, and accumulating hazardous waste. Life cycle assessment (LCA) is a recognized tool for assessing all the direct and indirect impacts of goods production, consumption, and utilization that must be accounted for to evaluate the environmental performance of your business.

The industry impacts include:

  • Emissions of greenhouse gas (GHG) that accelerate global climate change
  • Pollution with eutrophying substances like nitrogen and phosphorus
  • Contamination with toxic waste dangerous to human health and ecosystems
  • Depletion of nonrenewable resources including fossils and metals
  • Exploitation of biotic resources such as wood leading to deforestation and ecosystem degradation
  • Industrial use of land leading to erosion and natural habitat destruction
  • High freshwater demand for production resulting in water scarcity, and contamination of waterways.

Intensive energy demand is a significant factor, as the household consumption accounts for 60% or more of the product life cycle impacts,  reaching up to 70% for industrialized countries. Manufactured products, particularly electrical appliances, are among top three contributors to the carbon footprint of rich countries due to their high energy use. As the products are traded globally through complex supply chains, it can be difficult to assess their total impact contribution. Emerging economies across Asia are exporting large amounts of products, so a substantial share of the environmental burden from their consumption by the Western countries is translocated to the Asian countries where the products are being manufactured.

The human health impacts are related to the emissions of greenhouse gases, chemical air pollutants, ozone-depleting, and radioactive emissions. The environmental health risk factors are associated with the production emissions of carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, methane, fine particulate matter, Nitrogen oxides, Sulphur dioxide, and ammonia that are dangerous to human health. Unsafe water, sanitation, and hygiene contribute 3.7% of the global burden of disease, lead exposure accounts for 0.9%, urban air pollution 0.4%, climate change 0.4%, occupational exposure to particulates 0.3%, and carcinogens 0.06%.

International Legislation

As the nations grow more aware of these ecotoxic effects on their economies and wellbeing, the environmental legislation is becoming ever more stringent. To make the industry safer and sustainable in the long run, the governments are introducing strict mandatory restrictions and industry regulations. The European Union has successfully adopted Ecodesign and energy labeling to improve the resource efficiency of goods production. Product life cycle analysis is applied to identify and eliminate the least efficient products from the market, driving environmental innovation, stimulating industrial competitiveness, and sustainable investment. The Ecodesign Directive provides rules for all member states aimed at improving the environmental performance and energy efficiency of products including household appliances, electronic goods, information and communication technologies. National market surveillance authorities verify that products sold in the EU follow the requirements of Ecodesign and Energy Labelling Regulations.

Such a holistic approach removes barriers to sustainable trade, boosts product quality, and ensures environmental protection. A number of countries outside the EU have developed similar legislation including the USA, Australia, Japan, China, and Brazil. Hong Kong, which annually generates 70,000 tonnes of waste electrical and electronic equipment, has now introduced the Producer responsibility scheme (PRS) as a key policy tool for sustainable waste management. The concept is based on the principle of “polluter pays” and “eco-responsibility” requiring manufacturers, importers, wholesalers, retailers, and consumers to share the responsibility for collecting, recycling, treatment, and disposal of end-of-life products to avoid and reduce their environmental impacts at the post-consumer stage. Starting from August 2018, suppliers of regulated electrical equipment (REE) including computers, televisions, printers, scanners, monitors, as well as washing machines, air-conditioners, and refrigerators, must be registered by the Environmental Protection Department of Hong Kong before distributing REE. Registered suppliers must fulfill a set of statutory obligations such as submitting returns to Department, providing recycling labels, and paying recycling levies. Sellers must further provide their consumers with recycling labels, a receipt for recycling levies, and arrange a free equipment disposal service.

National and international environmental certifications provide various useful tools for the hardgoods industry players to identify, evaluate, improve, and verify their environmental performance and help fulfill their legal obligations. TCO Certified, an international sustainability certification for IT products, sets out sustainability criteria for to ensure safety, environmental and social responsibility during the whole life cycle of the IT product from design, to manufacturing, use, and recycling. This certification requires detailed verification of the key aspects of sustainability performance.

The Green Electronics Council has developed a global rating system known as the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) that rates electronic products on a life cycle basis. EPEAT allows evaluating, comparing, and choosing electronics based on their environmental attributes specified for different categories including PCs, displays, televisions, printers, copiers, scanners, multifunction devices, fax machines, and more. The system aims to eliminate toxic substances from the manufacturing, promote use of recycled and recyclable materials, facilitate product design for recycling, extend product longevity, improve energy efficiency, boost corporate performance, and implement sustainable product packaging strategies.

Mandatory Product Labeling In China

The General Administration of Quality, Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) is the main body in China regulating all aspects of product quality including energy efficiency standards and environmental compliance. All manufacturers must submit energy efficiency information for their products to the China Energy Label Center before putting those products on the market. The Energy Label currently applies to four products including air conditioners, household refrigerators, washing machines, and unitary air conditioners.

The Certification and Accreditation Commission of China (CNCA) gives accreditations to testing laboratories and overseeing any certification schemes including the voluntary energy efficiency endorsement labeling program operated by the China Quality Certification Center (CQC).

The National Energy Conservation Law requires all enterprises manufacturing, importing, or selling energy-using products which fail to meet MEPS to stop production. The products that fail compliance and any associated gains are considered illegal and get confiscated, and the responsible persons are fined 1-5 times of money equal to the illegal gains. The Industrial and Commercial Administrative Department can also revoke the enterprise’s business license. High penalties are imposed for products covered by mandatory label requirements in cases when the labeling is irregular or missing, or the record product energy efficiency parameters have not been registered under the China National Institute of Standardization (CNIS) database before labeling, or if the labeling is misleading or false. These programs proved to be successful significantly reducing the energy consumption of appliances in China.

Voluntary Standards

Customers all over the world tend to have more trust in products with environmental labels or recognized certifications. Manufacturers, distributors, and retailers can attract more clients and gain a strong competitive advantage on the modern market by implementing international voluntary standards for environmental management.

The ISO 14040 Standard utilizes the product life cycle assessment (LCA) methods for developing the life cycle inventory analysis (LCI), the life cycle impact assessment (LCIA), the life cycle interpretation, reporting, critical review, and intended application. LCA is a remarkable tool for strategic planning that allows companies to identify opportunities for improving the product design and environmental performance throughout their life cycle. It also helps to market their achievements using ecolabelling schemes, environmental claims, and environmental product declarations (EPD).

EPD is a useful tool compliant with the ISO 14025 Standard for Environmental labels and declarations that verifies information about the environmental impacts associated with a product, enables objective communication, and product comparison based on the LCA. EPD includes product and company information covering raw material acquisition, energy use and efficiency, material and chemical content, emissions to air, soil, and water, as well as waste generation. ISO 14044 provides guidelines and specifies requirements for all stages of the LCA, establishes the relationship between the LCA phases, and conditions for use of value choices and optional elements.

ECOLOGO certifies products, services, and packaging for reduced environmental impacts based on their LCA. ECOLOGO Certifications are voluntary and multi-attribute, indicating that a product has undergone adequate scientific testing, exhaustive auditing, or both, in order to prove compliance with third-party environmental performance standards. These standards set metrics for a wide variety of criteria for environmental health and safety, materials management, energy efficiency, manufacturing, operations, product performance and use, product stewardship, and innovation.

The Cradle to Cradle Certified™ Product Standard provides guidance for designers and manufacturers for establishing a continual improvement process addressing key product quality categories including renewable energy and carbon management, material health and reutilization, water stewardship, and social fairness. The assessment allows choosing the safest materials by evaluating the potential hazards of chemicals used in production, maximize the percentage of renewable and recycled content and ensure the materials can be safely reused, recycled, or composted at the product’s end of life. The Standard also promotes renewable sources of energy and offsetting carbon emissions from the manufacturing, addresses industrial water impacts and chemicals in the wastewater. Additionally, the certification verifies fair conditions for employees, supply chain and the local communities.

Complying with voluntary environmental standards and obtaining certifications like ECOLOGO can bring multiple benefits for any business. Demonstrating your commitment and leadership in sustainability will attract new clients and elevate your customer perception using smart sustainable branding and marketing strategies. It will also reduce your production costs, facilitate sustainable procurement, and establish a green supply chain.

Professional Help

API household goods specialists can help you prove your customers, partners, and investors that your products meet world-class environmental, social, and quality standards. Our experts will help you assess, improve the environmental performance of your manufacturing activities, identify and verify the production impacts, conduct product life cycle assessment, calculate carbon footprint, prepare your business for environmental certification, and ensure legal compliance.

Contact us today to discuss how we can help you make your business more sustainable.

For more information about sustainability in the household industry, please visit our page.


API Audit: Accredited to perform ICS audits

API Audit, API’s division responsible for auditing operations, is accredited by ICS to perform social and environmental audits that comply with the ICS Code of Conduct. ICS – Initiative for Compliance and Sustainability – is an international sectorial initiative that aims to enhance working conditions among the global supply chains of its member retailers and brands. ICS is composed of 43 multinational retailers and brands in the sectors of textile, retail, footwear, electronics, and furniture. ICS members collaborate with common tools to mutualize audits, contributing to the reduction of ‘audit fatigue’ while sharing knowledge and best practices*.

As specialists in our field, drawing from our vast hands-on industry experience, we are ready to accompany ICS members and factories in the process of improvement. Our solutions adhering to ICS methodology include:

  • ICS social and environmental audits
  • Follow up and solutions

Interested in our ICS audit solutions?

*ICS logo and description are property of ICS


Improve Your Social Compliance

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has evolved in recent years from being a ‘beneficial asset’ to a compliance requirement that’s also gaining influence in the buyers’ decision-making process. In 2018, 69% of consumers said they were influenced by brands’ ethical values and authenticity*. An adequate social compliance plan can support your brand in going one step beyond with associated benefits such an increased productivity. These benefits include, for example, an end to duplicated work processes or the implementation of better time management within your workforce.

At API, we offer tailor-made social audit assessments utilizing our experts’ knowledge in developing programs adapted to your needs, and implement ad-hoc plans based on the specific requirements that matter the most to you. We can help you meet your social compliance objectives and challenges that follow:

  • Global industry initiatives & local labor laws: Our experience, expertise and specialization ensure fast and comprehensive results
  • Your own code(s) of conduct: Our industry knowledge and on-the-ground know-how will evaluate and reinforce your objectives – because CSR could be a key asset for brand reputation and differentiation
  • API’s standard: We help you from scratch through personalized service specific to these areas

Looking to implement an effective corrective action plan after completion of a social compliance audit? You can benefit from API’s manufacturing experience and deep industry expertise that enables us to suggest informed and productive technical improvements. API’s technical experts will help you identify main factory issues and their root causes with a professional follow-up. You can increase your factory’s productivity with its available resources thanks to our experts’ recommendations on optimum corrective strategies.

Example: Increased supplier’s productivity based on its resources

Improved Social Compliance: Enhanced Brand Reputation and Supplier Productivity

Interested in our social audit solutions?

*Survey of 30,000 consumers in 35 countries, 2018 (Accenture)


Sustainable Practices For Manufacturing Hard Goods

Implementing sustainable business strategies is getting increasingly popular in the manufacturing industry as more prominent international and local industry players of all sizes acknowledge the long-term value of sustainable management for business growth and resilience.

Sustainable manufacturing starts with building a sustainability team for effective collaboration between managers, material experts, process engineers, product designers, production, procurement specialists, and environmental, health, and safety officers.

Engaging representatives from every department helps organizations to evaluate all the key sustainability aspects of the manufacturing process and understand how to work more effectively to save resources, time, and money.

Sustainable manufacturing has a lot to offer:

  • Integrating sustainability across business functions improves production processes and profitability
  • Using innovation, scenario planning, and strategic analysis reduces environmental, health, and safety risks and associated financial losses
  • Improving environmental performance helps ensure compliance with increasingly stringent regulatory constraints
  • Optimizing operational efficiencies reduces resource costs and industrial waste from production
  • Introducing stakeholder engagement policies helps train and retain qualified employees, builds long-term business viability and resilience
  • Strengthening brand reputation and public trust with a visible commitment to sustainability enhances sales and competitiveness on the market attracting new customers, partners, and investors.

Sustainable/Recycled Raw Materials

Choosing sustainable raw or recycled materials improves the resource efficiency and safety of the manufacturing, prevents eco-toxicity, extends the lifespan of many instruments and equipment, minimizing the risks and need for repairs.

Recycling materials preserves their embodied energy, so the amount of energy required for the recycling process is usually far less than the energy used for the primary production. The largest energy savings can be achieved by recycling metals and thus avoiding the energy-intensive mining and processing of ore. For example, recycling aluminium from scrap uses 88-95% less energy than primary aluminium production, secondary copper results in 15-65% energy savings. Lead can be effectively recycled multiple times without losing its properties with 60-75% energy savings compared to the primary lead production. Energy savings from recycling iron and steel can be up to 72%, beryllium recycling saves 80%, and 50% for recycling cadmium. An estimated 40% of the nickel used in the production of stainless steel comes from post-consumer stainless steel scrap resulting in 90% energy savings for the secondary nickel production. However, when it comes to recycling paper, although the secondary production requires 40% less energy than the primary production, more fossil fuels can actually be required for paper recycling.

Smart solutions like using antimicrobial copper alloys to protect solid surfaces from microbial contamination instead of using enhanced chemical cleaning protocols can prevent the spread of bacterial infections and reduce human exposure to toxic substances from the cleaning products. The EPA has registered 500 copper alloys including brass and bronze as capable of killing 99.9% of disease-causing, potentially deadly bacteria within two hours even after recontamination.

ECO Design

Sustainable product design strategies allow manufacturers to evaluate and address the environmental impacts throughout the entire life cycle of the product, optimize resource consumption, minimize energy use and waste during production and transportation of the products.

Incorporating sustainability considerations into product development ensures the long-term availability of materials and resources, helps achieve compliance with product quality and safety regulations, and avoid using harmful materials that can be restricted in some countries or highly likely to be banned in the future. Material choices and product design should incorporate the recycling capability and publish the specifications in their product declarations.

Sustainable Packaging 

Sustainable packaging logistics help develop integrated packaging, product, and supply chain systems to ensure safe, efficient, and effective handling, transportation, distribution, storage, retail, use, reuse, recovery, and disposal of goods, minimizing the negative environmental impacts and risks, while maximizing the social and consumer value, sales, and profits. For example, replacing wasteful single-use containers, plastic, Styrofoam, cardboard, and pallets with reusable, recycled, and recyclable packaging like collapsible bulk boxes helps optimize the shipping, storage, and handling of hard goods.

The Sustainable Packaging Coalition defines the following criteria for sustainable packaging:

  • Designed to optimize the material and energy use
  • Sourced, manufactured, transported, and recycled using clean production technologies and best practices, renewable energy sources
  • Maximum use of renewable and recycled materials
  • Satisfying the market demand for performance and cost.
  • Healthy, safe, and beneficial for individuals and communities throughout the entire life cycle and in all probable end of life scenarios
  • Effectively recovered and utilized in biological and/or industrial cradle to cradle cycles.

Analysis of sustainable packaging logistics strategies shows that an upfront investment in sustainability actually accelerates the economic growth and profitability due to significant savings from multiple reuses, easier handling, less labor for assembling boxes and crates, smaller floor space use during storage and shipping, and reduced packaging costs per piece. Sustainable packaging gives a strategic competitive advantage to manufacturers, as it shows their commitment to implement the best industry practices, improves public trust, and strengthens their brand reputation.

Recycling Programs

Manufacturers are the primary consumers of recycled materials obtained from end-of-life products and industrial scrap, and they can also contribute to closed-loop material recycling. Incorporating waste recovery and recycling in-house as part of the manufacturing process or supplying scrap materials from production to other companies for recycling can reduce your company’s waste and associated costs. Utilizing scrap processing solutions and including post-consumer recycled materials like metal, plastic, paper, glass, rubber, electronics, or textiles as part of your manufacturing process can bring significant savings of energy, raw materials, and reduction in emissions from production.   

It is important to remember that recycling is not the ultimate sustainable solution as it also consumes energy and water contributing to resource depletion and pollution. An efficient recycling program for manufacturing requires a detailed analysis of the environmental footprint including energy use at each phase of the recycling processes to determine the most sustainable recycling routes. To optimize the recycling processes, manufacturers must carefully develop their sustainable recycling strategies and the supporting structures, systems, performance goals, key performance indicators, measurements, and performance monitoring protocols.

Sustainable Factories

Incorporating diverse business intelligence tools, specialized sustainability software, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things (IoT) into your factory operations can help you predict, model, plan, monitor, and evaluate the efficiency of factory operations, adapt manufacturing workflows, conduct preventative maintenance, coordinate, and implement robust environmental, health, safety, and quality control systems to ensure continual performance improvement. The International Organization for Standardization has just released a new voluntary standard ISO/IEC 30141, Internet of Things (IoT)Reference architecture that provides a framework with reusable designs and industry best practices that can help establish reliable, safe, secure systems for smart, sustainable manufacturing by gathering the key performance data, protecting the privacy, and preventing disruptions from cyber attacks and natural disasters

Sustainable Energy

The carbon footprint from manufacturing operations can be reduced through various energy-efficient solutions, and not all of them require much capital investment. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) estimates that renewables could reach up to 27% of the total manufacturing energy consumption by 2030 with the availability of affordable sustainable, biomass sources, and can further grow up to 34% due to carbon emissions trading. IRENA’s analysis shows that energy efficiency and renewable energy production are the most cost-effective methods for reducing the energy-related industrial CO2 emissions, but to achieve the climate objectives of the Paris Agreement renewables deployment must accelerate six times faster than today.

Investing in green energy production systems to support the manufacturing process like using biomethane obtained from renewable resources instead of the natural gas can make manufacturing self-sufficient and carbon-neutral. Rethinking the lighting positions, schedule, and intensity of lights to target work areas more effectively helps avoid wasting energy, reduce electricity bills, and improve the working conditions for employees.

Hazardous Waste

Manufacturing waste often contains elements classified as hazardous, which may accumulate in production areas that are difficult to access, posing health and safety risks to employees. Using non-toxic materials for production, finding sustainable alternatives to traditional chemical solutions, and extending the life cycle of the chemistry, can significantly reduce the quantity of waste production, prevent employee exposure to toxic solvents and fumes, reduce costs for hazardous material disposal, and ease the environmental regulatory burden on the company.

API Sustainability Services

Our team unites experts in sustainable manufacturing practices with extensive experience in environmental management, material assessment, and recycling.

API Recycling Verification Services will help verify and validate the authenticity of your recycled products, processes, and raw material sources.

Supply chain traceability and verification

  • Tracking your products back to the source and authenticating the raw material sources.
  • Assessment and validation of the percentage of post-consumer recycled content, post-industrial recycled content or total recycled content contained in a product

Recycled product footprint – calculating the sustainability impacts of your recycled products

Recycled content preparation and validation – consulting service to help you ensure a recycled product has the right percentage of recycled content

Contact us today to receive a professional consultation on introducing effective sustainability strategies, incorporating recycling programs into your manufacturing process, developing supporting protocols, systems, performance goals, indicators, measurements, and more.

For more information about sustainability in manufacturing, click here.

All data is quoted from and belongs to published literature. API does not hold any responsibility for the accuracy, timeliness or validity of any data or information.