CEP at Circularity 24: electronics in the spotlight

CEP Secretariat
May 31, 2024
4 min read

Last week, the Circular Electronics Partnership (CEP) Secretariat joined 1,300 circular economy professionals at GreenBiz’s Circularity 24 conference in Chicago to promote and lead dialogue on the importance and benefits of creating a circular electronics industry. Joined by staff from over 15 CEP member companies and partner organizations, the CEP organized a panel on circular design principles and contributed to a discussion on the environmental and social benefits of circular electronics. Although the three-day conference was cross-sectoral, it was clear that the electronics industry is growing in prominence. Several sessions offered practical insights on remanufacturing, scaling repair ecosystems (with a live mobile phone repair demonstration!), rethinking electronics packaging, building equitable supply chains for critical materials, measuring circularity along the value chain, and more!

Convening the CEP community

As an official convening partner of Circularity 24, CEP hosted a lunch reception co-sponsored by CEP’s founding partner, the Global Electronics Council, with over 15 member companies and partners in attendance. The event provided 35 practitioners from the CEP community a unique opportunity to connect in person after three years of collaborating online, to share conference highlights, and discuss aspirations for the future of circular electronics and industry-wide collaboration within CEP. Bob Mitchel, CEO of GEC, reaffirmed the organization’s commitment to the Partnership and advancing the industry transition, while CEP’s Dan Reid welcomed the active engagement of member companies and partners in accelerating progress on the CEP Roadmap.








Charging ahead on circular design

The Circular Electronics Partnership hosted a session featuring CEP members HP Inc., Microsoft, Accenture, and CEP founding partner, the Global Electronics Council (GEC), on integrating circular design principles into the electronics industry. Despite growing interest, practitioners still lack industry-specific guidance to effectively evaluate circular design criteria during product development. Baptiste Sené-Donnais from Accenture provided a behind-the-scenes look at the Circular Electronics Design Guide, co-created with industry experts from CEP and the Circular Design Forum to address this gap.

Scaling circular value propositions

Jason Brown discussed the introduction of repair at Microsoft, highlighting the successful inclusion of “wayfinding marks” and the challenges to scaling the repair offerings across the portfolio. Erica Terek from GEC spoke about developing product-based circularity criteria as part of the EPEAT ecolabel, which can be applied portfolio-wide. Finally, Jennifer Reece reflected on HP successfully introducing a circularity framework in 2020, focusing on product-based circularity performance (reuse, repairability, refurbishment, remanufacturing). Attendees identified various challenges for electronic product manufacturers in scaling their circular offerings, including costs, customer participation, reverse logistics, assumed cannibalism of “new sales”, managing trade-offs, and going beyond material-level circularity towards product-level circular strategies such as repair and refurbishment. The forthcoming Circular Electronics Design Guide, to be published in the autumn on the CEP website, offers a practical navigation of these questions. When adopted by the industry, it could enable progress on Pathway 1 of the Circular Electronics Roadmap but also broader system transformation, as CEP’s Ralitza Naydenova highlighted in the session.

Reducing waste and emissions through electronics management

On Thursday, CEP’s alliance partner SERI facilitated a panel on how responsible electronics management can help achieve circularity and ESG goals, with speakers from CEP, Digitunity, and CEP members ERI, and Google. CEP’s Head of Secretariat, Dan Reid, emphasized the social, environmental, and financial benefits of waste reduction and circularity in electronics. Longer-lasting, refurbished, and recycled electronics and materials produce social value through increased computer literacy, connectivity of disenfranchised communities, and job growth in the recycling sector. With over 80% of emissions embedded in electronics manufacturing, secondary materials, components, and extended use phases significantly reduce the industry’s environmental impact. Economically, the Global E-waste Monitor reports a loss of $61 billion (69%) in secondary materials annually. While representing a significant economic loss, these materials are also important for creating more resilient and lower-risk supply chains. To achieve all these benefits, collaboration across all stakeholders, including suppliers, manufacturers, procurers, policymakers, and users, is crucial.

Looking ahead

The Circularity 24 conference highlighted the transformative potential of circular electronics. By showcasing innovative strategies and fostering collaboration among industry leaders, the event underscored the critical need for shared knowledge and concerted efforts. The insights and connections made at the conference will undoubtedly drive the next steps in achieving a sustainable and circular future for the electronics industry.

Until next year, at Circularity 25 in Denver!