For Safer Manufacturing
For Safer Manufacturing
Focus Area: Fair Labor
Network Launch Date: June 2016
The Clean Electronics Production Network (CEPN) is a multi-stakeholder Innovation Network, formally launched in June 2016 by the Center for Sustainability Solutions to address complex workplace health and safety challenges in the electronics supply chain.
CEPN serves as a platform for collaborative innovation where diverse stakeholders – including technology suppliers, brands, labor and environmental advocates, governments and other leading experts -- work together to understand, address, and eliminate worker exposures to toxic chemicals in electronics production.
Workers in electronics production facilities around the world—especially in emerging economies—are often involuntarily exposed to toxic chemicals. CEPN’s participants share a mission to develop solutions that protect the health and safety of front line workers, preferably through elimination and substitution with safer processes and alternative substances. We commit to working together to rapidly pilot and refine those solutions, and to scale them up in the service of our shared goal of moving toward zero exposure of workers to toxic chemicals in the electronics manufacturing process.
Developing high-trust relationships between brands, suppliers, customers, workers and advocates is critical to leveraging their diverse talents and perspectives to address the challenges facing the technology supply chain. Transparency, information sharing, and collective action, even among competitors, enable all stakeholders to more effectively address issues like workplace exposure, which no single organization can resolve on its own.
Network members share their detailed knowledge of the health and safety hazards posed by chemicals used in electronics production and assembly facilities, and collaborate to develop solutions across five focus areas: Worker Empowerment and Engagement, Tracking and Monitoring Exposures, Qualitative Exposure Assessment, Targeted Safer Substitutions, and Standardized Process Chemicals Data Collection. Our Network prioritizes solutions that address toxic exposures through substitutions or process changes that allow elimination of toxic chemical use wherever possible. The Network supports the active involvement of workers in identifying issues and opportunities for improvement, within our own work and in the operations of individual facilities or firms.
CEPN is in the process of piloting and other real-world testing of our proposed solutions. We look forward to providing ongoing updates on our progress, and to sharing insights with stakeholders across the supply chain to foster best practices. We invite interested parties to join us in testing and refining collaborative solutions to reduce and eliminate toxic chemical exposures to workers in the electronics supply chain.
Cisco Systems (pilot partner)
Clean Production Action (CPA)
Responsible Business Alliance (RBA)*
International Campaign for Responsible Technology (ICRT)*
Inventec Performance Chemicals
Social Accountability International (SAI)
Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council (SPLC)*
The Sustainability Consortium (TSC)
*Denotes CEPN Design Team (governing body) Member
CEPN Initiative Groups & Projects
CEPN Initiative Groups & Projects
Chemical Focus: Process Chemicals with first round of priority chemicals limited to cleaning solvents
Hazard & Exposure Focus: Reducing both hazard and exposure
Door-to-Door Focus: Includes exposure during usage, handling, and disposal of chemicals in the facility
Goal: Workers are educated and sufficiently empowered to help protect themselves and others from toxic exposures.
Importance: In mature management systems, workers play a critical role to signal and address health & safety issues, including chemical safety. Increasing worker empowerment and involvement should enable more effective adoption of other Network strategies – e.g. risk evaluation, safer substitutions, etc.
This working group addresses the need for a common industry approach to
Measure the current status of worker empowerment and involvement
Provide guidance how facilities can improve to more mature systems
Worker Empowerment Framework: tool for multifaceted assessment of levels of worker involvement in and empowerment around chemical safety and exposure issues in a facility
Worker Voice: Interviewing and conducting focus groups with workers in electronics facilities to ascertain their interest, perspectives, needs around occupational exposures and empowerment
Goal: We have a concrete and complete picture of what chemicals are being used and/or generated, what exposures are occurring, and what is the significance of those exposures.
Importance: Exposure assessments and objective information on the extent of worker exposures to toxic chemicals are essential to really assess the success of Network efforts to reduce releases and exposures.
Advocacy for Enhanced Exposure Monitoring – promoting effective tools and evaluation programs (e.g. Qualitative Exposure Assessment) to better identify and prioritize risks
Monitoring Technologies – Identifying and compiling information on available and future suitable/applicable instruments for exposure monitoring Programs – Developing simplified approaches to exposure monitoring that can reduce the barriers to use
Developing improved monitoring methodologies, including more effective processes and best practices for conducting Industrial Hygiene risk assessment (e.g. Qualitative – Quantitative Assessments)
Identifying and advancing opportunities for facility participation in testing of new exposure monitoring programs (e.g. NIOSH HHE, QEA)
Goal: Enabling facilities without IH/OHS expertise to identify worker exposure risks and prioritize efforts to eliminate them.
Simplification of and advocacy for Qualitative Evaluation to identify exposure risks
Empowerment of facility management to address toxic exposure risks in a systematic way that addresses highest risk immediately and enables planning for sequential elimination of exposures
Goal: Identified hazardous chemicals are substituted with “safer” alternatives or eliminated
Importance: Substitution and/or elimination of toxic chemicals is a critical factor in moving to zero exposure. Brands cannot do this alone—transparency, collective action, are required for transforming the industry.
Chemical Packets on key chemicals - including background chemical profiles, process mapping of usage, potential alternatives, and case studies of successful substitutions
Testing specific substitutions and documenting learning through case studies
Developing and testing a simplified Alternatives Assessment process for use by suppliers without extensive expertise
Process Mapping: Documenting reported uses of priority chemicals
Framework for prioritizing chemicals for exposure reduction/elimination
Goal: The process of collecting data on process chemical use is clear, simple, efficient, and standardized to reduce effort and increase understanding among suppliers and their customers.
Importance: Standardized data collection is the essential first step to identifying risks and opportunities to eliminate exposure
Develop a standard data collection tool for manufacturers and suppliers to more easily share data on chemicals used in production
Use this standard tool to enable better identification of risks and hazards and foster dialogue between suppliers and brands about elimination, substitution and risk reduction
Use a standardized data collection methodology to help reduce survey fatigue and protect intellectual property
Advocate for the widespread adoption of the standardized data collection template, with the goal of reducing costs and increasing efficiencies for addressing process chemicals
Get Involved with CEPN
Get Involved with CEPN
Participation in the Clean Electronics Production Network is by invitation only. We seek diverse participants from across the supply chain who are innovators and natural collaborators, who are experts in their segment of the supply chain, held in high regard by their peers, and committed to the goals of CEPN. If your organization is interested in joining CEPN, please see the process and contact information below.
CEPN Participants meet semi-annually in person for a three-day working session. Between meetings, participants meet biweekly as Initiative Groups via video link and conference call, to develop and implement solutions in small groups. Each such group may have multiple subgroups.
The Initiative Groups and their subgroups focus on developing specific solutions, through an aggressive process of prototyping, deploying, testing, refining and reiteration. To make optimal use of participants’ time, Initiative Groups and their subgroups are supported administratively by CEPN staff.
Participation in the Network is fee-based, with corporate and other large organization participants paying fees based on annual gross revenues. These participation fees support the operation of the network and most importantly, underwrite the participation of social stakeholders and small NGOs.
CEPN operates under well-defined antitrust guidelines and terms of confidentiality. While participants benefit from sharing insights into their challenges, and work closely together to develop ideas for solutions, no participant is required to expose confidential or proprietary information within network conversations. Members may also undertake bilateral cooperation outside the Network proper, though they are encouraged to share any results within the Network so that others may replicate them.
Non-member participants may engage with the Network in several ways:
Suppliers or brands can volunteer facilities they control for pilot testing of CEPN solutions
Any stakeholder may, with advanced notice and a prior interview, seek to attend a biannual meeting in order to learn more about the Network if they are considering participation
Additional information on participation:
We continue to grow the network – reaching out to individuals and organizations with demonstrated track records of leadership supporting safe and sustainable workplaces across the electronics value chain. If you'd like to schedule an interview, please message CEPN@greenamerica.org.
The CEPN team also continues to interview expert stakeholders to better understand incentives and barriers to reducing exposure to toxic chemicals in the electronics supply chain.
CEPN engages with graduate students or graduate student teams on a limited basis for designated projects. If you are interested in learning more about opportunities around student projects, contact us.
Simply put, the QEA entails the following:
Simple and Low Cost: QEA consists of simple forms and detailed instructions for documenting chemical use, hazards control systems, and worker tasks. The QEA can be completed by EHS Staff with limited industrial hygiene expertise.
Reduce Risk: Identify Job Tasks with a high risk of chemical exposures that might otherwise go unnoticed.
Improvement: Generates an Overall Risk Ranking that can be used to determine necessary controls, ways to improve performance, and reduce exposure risk.
Documentation: Provides documentation and completion of a critical element in chemical management system to proactively identify risk and mitigation methods.
This Alternatives Assessment Guide, developed by CEPN, is a concise, high-level guide for identifying and evaluating potential substitutions for Chemicals of High Concern used in electronics manufacturing processes. It is intended to provide companies with a tool for thoroughly assessing and implementing safer alternatives to identified Chemicals of High Concern and avoiding regrettable substitutions. A safer alternative may include a chemical substitute or a change in materials or design that eliminates the need for a chemical alternative.
The alternatives assessment process includes guidance for evaluating human health and environmental impacts, technical feasibility, lifecycle thinking, social impacts, availability, and cost of potential alternatives. There are several comprehensive alternative assessment frameworks that can be referenced if more detailed guidance is needed:
National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Framework to Guide Selection of Chemical Alternatives
Interstate Chemicals Clearinghouse (IC2) Alternatives Assessment Guide
California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) Alternatives Analysis Guide)
This guide may be useful to a number of actors - including brands doing an internal review of chemicals used to produce their products, brands and suppliers working together to find alternatives to a chemical the brand wishes the supplier to eliminate, and suppliers who wish to proactively replace chemicals that create large risk of worker health and/or environmental impact.