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Publication Date

Fall 2017

Degree Type

Thesis - Campus Access Only

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Environmental Studies


Dustin Mulvaney


Corporate social responsibility, Design for Environment, environmental justice, E-waste, Extended producer responsibility, green commodity chains

Subject Areas

Environmental management; Environmental justice


Growth in consumer electronics production has increased volumes of electronic waste (e-waste) generation, with an estimated 41.8 metric tons generated in 2014. Mismanagement of e-waste has resulted in environmental degradation and increased human exposure to toxins. Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) has emerged as a leading policy approach for the management of e-waste, aiming to shift financial and logistical responsibility for disposal of products at end-of-life onto manufacturers. By holding manufacturers responsible for the collection and disposal of e-waste, EPR policies aim to create incentives for sustainable product design. Sustainable product design has been lauded as a potential vehicle to harmonize the economic growth of the tech industry with that of environmental protection. Design for Environment (DfE), a strategy for incorporating sustainability into product design, includes decreased use of toxins, easier disassembly, and increased lifespan of products. This study examined the role of EPR policies in stimulating efforts to incorporate DfE via multiple case studies of four electronics manufacturers, supplemented by interviews with three industry stakeholders, as well as a content analysis of 20 leading electronics manufacturers. This study revealed factors that may be impeding EPR policies from incentivizing sustainable product design, as well shedding light on a broader issue; how effectively is the continued growth of this industry balanced with environmental protection?