How EMS providers can help you make sustainable products

Who wants to pay more for electronic products? Apparently, most of us. And it’s not just Gen Z, Millennials, or even Gen X. Even the Boomers are warming to the idea of paying higher prices if there are environmental benefits. According to Forbes, two-thirds of all customers across the generations say they are willing to pay more for more sustainable products.

From Boomers to Millenials, the most critical factor is the type of materials used to make their products, while Gen Z is mainly concerned with sustainable manufacturing. Whatever the generation, customers want sustainability, and brands must recognise this issue's importance. 

A sustainable brand is one that’s likely to endure. 

How can EMS providers help?

EMS (electronics manufacturing services) providers can be an end-to-end solution for OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) looking to outsource. From product development to product design to transportation, EMS providers can place sustainability at the heart of every step of the manufacturing process. 

Design for sustainability (DfS)

Design for sustainability is a framework for designing products and processes that are environmentally sustainable, socially responsible, and economically viable. DfS is not just about meeting regulatory requirements but going beyond them to create products that have a minimal impact on the environment and society throughout their entire lifecycle.

DfS is an essential approach for electronics manufacturers to reduce their environmental impact, improve their brand reputation, and create products that meet the growing demands of environmentally conscious consumers. 

There are six key principles of DfS: 

  1. Choose materials that are environmentally sustainable throughout their entire lifecycle.
  2. Design products that consume minimal energy during their lifecycle. 
  3. Design products with a clear plan for their end-of-life management to reduce their impact on the environment. 
  4. Design products that can be reused, repaired or recycled to minimise waste and maximise the use of resources. 
  5. Ensure that the products are manufactured under ethical and socially responsible conditions.
  6. Encourage innovation in product design to find new ways to reduce the environmental impact of products.

Using predictive analytics 

Predictive analysis can help EMS providers optimise their resource consumption. The process involves analysing historical data and identifying patterns to help anticipate demand and production requirements. Better data can help reduce energy consumption and waste, contributing to a more sustainable manufacturing process.

By using predictive maintenance, EMS providers can anticipate equipment failures before they occur, allowing them to schedule maintenance proactively. This can help reduce downtime and unplanned repairs, increasing efficiency.

Predictive analysis can identify potential disruptions and bottlenecks before they occur, helping EMS providers optimise their supply chain. This can increase efficiency and reduce the carbon footprint of the manufacturing process.

Testing 3D digital samples prior to production

By using computer-aided design (CAD) software, a designer can create a digital product model. This is then used to create a 3D digital sample: a virtual representation of the product to be computer-tested.

When using 3D digital samples to test different materials, EMS providers can identify the most sustainable product options, meaning they can choose materials that are more environmentally friendly, durable, and have a longer lifespan. They can also identify design flaws and issues before the product goes to production. 

3D digital samples allow designers to experiment with new designs and materials with less waste. This inspires innovation that will hopefully reduce the future environmental impact of products and increase sustainability. 

Refining ESG policies 

By placing ESG at the centre of their business, EMS providers can make decisions throughout the whole supply chain and manufacturing process that contribute to product sustainability. Refining ESG policies to include the following practices can help improve the sustainability of the products they manufacture.

  • Adopting energy-efficient production processes
  • Using renewable energy sources
  • Implementing closed-loop recycling systems
  • Sourcing raw materials from ethical suppliers 
  • Designing products that are made to be recycled or repurposed 
  • Working with customers to track and report sustainability

Making products that last longer

Many electronic products are designed with planned obsolescence in mind; however, designing and producing longer-lasting products is a key component of sustainability. 

Innovation is critical for product longevity. EMS providers that invest generously in research and development will be able to make more durable products. Probably the best-known example is Apple, which is renowned for investing heavily in R&D. The iPhone 7 was one of the first phones to be IP67 certified (water resistant). The iPhone X features a toughened glass screen, which is less likely to crack or break upon impact. And the iPhone 12 includes an A14 Bionic chip that helps prolong the device's lifespan. Additionally, Apple's iOS software updates are designed to optimise performance and extend lifespan, even for older models.

Apple is an excellent example of a brand that charges more for its products, but the company has gained a reputation for long-lasting devices. Customers are happy to pay more for this trade-off. But Apple is not the only company focusing on sustainability: Samsung, LG, Panasonic, and Sony all have a reputation for producing long-lasting electronic products. 

And how did they achieve this reputation: 

  • Using high-quality, durable, long-lasting materials
  • Designing products that are more robust and resistant to wear and tear. 
  • Undertaking rigorous testing to identify potential weaknesses 
  • Designing products that are easy to maintain and repair

Supporting the circular economy

EMS providers that go beyond manufacturing can support the circular economy by offering repair and refurbishment services. This can help reduce the need for new products, waste, and environmental impact. And it can also lead to increased revenue streams through innovative business practices such as Nokia’s relatively new subscription model for mobile devices. 

Supporting the circular economy can take place through every stage of the manufacturing process, from design to material choice.

EMS providers can also support their OEM customers by implementing reverse logistics programmes to recover products at the end of their life cycle and recycle or refurbish them. This will reduce waste and the environmental impact of discarded products.


Sustainability: customers want it and are prepared to pay for it. To futureproof their business models (and the planet) OEMs and their EMS partners can work together to build sustainability into the core of product design and production. New Call-to-action

Written by Neil Sharp

Neil has over 25 years’ experience in Electronics Manufacturing Services and Component Distribution. During his career, Neil has held a range of leadership positions in sales, marketing, and customer service. Neil is currently part of the ESCATEC Senior Management Team and is responsible for setting and delivering the overall Group Marketing strategy. Neil heads up the marketing department and is responsible for both the strategy and the implementation of innovative marketing campaigns designed to deliver high quality content to those seeking outsourcing solutions.