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EPEAT - Collaborating for the Environment

If you have experienced a successful outcome from a collaborative initiative, you understand what the commitment can achieve.

However, most people have experienced unsuccessful collaboration, thus they come into projects with biases and pre-conceived low expectations for success. The job of the process facilitators is to manage those notions and foster real collaboration within the framework of your project so everyone experiences positive outcomes.

Quote by Sarah O’Brien, EPEAT's Director of Communications

Collaboration isn’t something new, easy or quick. But the outcomes resulting from people truly coming together to address challenges are simply unmatchable.

And that’s why we keep trying, at times against all odds, to bring people together to address social challenges. If you have directly experienced the power of the collective, you have probably felt an amazing sense of hope for our social human existence. And once you have experienced it, it is very hard not to want to repeat it.

The Collaborating for the Environment posts look at successes and lessons learned from different collaborative initiatives that bring together entities from the government, for-profit and non-profit sectors to address environmental challenges. The goal is to identify attributes and characteristics that generated, or not, better outcomes.

One of those initiatives is EPEAT - The Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool - a stakeholder-developed system for identifying environmentally preferable electronics managed by the nonprofit Green Electronics Council (GEC), with a Board of Directors and a Board of Advisors that work under the transparency-based EPEAT Operational Policies.

Who is involved in EPEAT?

The collaborative partnership that developed the EPEAT system includes representatives from public and private institutional purchasers, manufacturers, trade associations, non-profit and advocacy organizations, government, electronics recyclers, and academics listed here. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-EPA helped fund the original standard development and is supporting management of additional product standards development under the EPEAT banner.

In the EPEAT system, manufacturers voluntarily declare their products’ conformance to a comprehensive set of environmental criteria in 8 environmental performance categories developed through an ANSI-conforming set of criteria contained in a public standard IEEE 1680 accessible here.

The process is open to everyone from NGOs, electronics manufacturers and suppliers, recyclers, purchasers, regulators, academics, to the general public.

Why is it important to learn from EPEAT’ lessons learned?

Because:

1. Bringing the public, non-profit and private segments together and designing a collaborative framework where everyone truly wins is extremely difficult.
2. Being successful at achieving collaboration from the very diverse set of participants is even more difficult.
3. Doing so to get manufacturers to voluntarily comply to environmental standards and surpassing the original goals is Priceless.

More importantly, EPEAT is a system that helps purchasers, including institutional purchasers evaluate, compare and select electronic products based on their environmental attributes. The outcome is demand for environmentally preferable products, with market rewards for manufacturers who achieve higher levels of environmental standards, which ultimately should benefit us all.

EPEAT’s Challenge

The challenge EPEAT was set-up to address was how to satisfy the growing demand among institutional purchasers for an easy-to-use evaluation tool to enable the comparison and selection of electronic products based on environmental performance.

Original Purpose & Objectives

To provide

A method in the United States and Canada to help government purchasers evaluate, compare and select electronic products based on their environmental attributes.
• A clear and consistent set of environmental criteria for product design.
• An opportunity to secure market recognition for efforts to reduce the environmental impacts of products.

In addition, the project had a comprehensive understanding of the stakeholders’ requirements, which became the following objectives:

• Be low cost and without delay in time-to-market for manufacturers
• Be transparent and allow flexibility to product designers
• Be voluntary but inviting for manufacturers
• Address end-of-life issues faced by the reuse and recycling community
• Effectively compare products with preferred environmental design; and
• Be simple and clear to purchasing officials.

The worldwide adoption by thousands of government, enterprise, education, healthcare, and SME purchasers demonstrate the potential for cross-sectors collaboration models such as EPEAT’s have for helping us address social challenges.

EPEAT' Success and Lessons Learned are detailed in the complete post at Collaborative Society where you can find out about lessons on:

- EPEAT's Main Successes
- Stakeholders-Driven Design
- Stakeholder Management Process
- Communication and On-going Engagement
- Internet-based Registration and Participation

But, I wanted to point out three of their lessons learned that I think are extremely valuable for all sorts of collaboration project:

• Avoiding the one-size-fits-all criteria and building flexibility into the tiered-based participation structure enabled a more successful adoption.
• Tapping into the desire for corporations to be more competitive and innovative without slowing their time to market as a way for them to embrace strict environmental criteria.
• Invest the proper amount of resources to manage the stakeholders process so you can be sensitive to their needs, strategies, and agendas.

However, above all these lessons learned is the need of finding a sustainable financial model that enables progressive increase of resources as demand and opportunities increase. EPEAT, just like all other organizations, requires a model that allows it to expand. I look forward to learning how they take the organization to that next level of growth.

For more information about EPEAT, visit epeat.net or contact Sarah O’Brien at [email protected]

What is this all about?
The Collaborative Society Directory’s goal is to collect and understand information from different collaborative projects that bring together as participants entities from the three forces that shape our societies: public, private and non-profit. The goal of The Collaborative Society is to explore if such information can provide us with insights of what could be the characteristics that make a society or a community healthy.

(cross-posted in http://www.collaborativesociety.com and TFCN)

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