International policy and law have long sought to ensure that states regulate the negative impacts of production processes on people and the planet. Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12 targets sustainable production and consumption; international conventions, such as the Basel Convention, or the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and the International Labour Organisation Conventions, all seek to regulate toxic or labour-related impacts associated with industrial production. However, there is ample evidence that such impacts continue. At a time of increasing pressure to develop sustainable systems of production and consumption, we asked whether the existing legal frameworks are appropriate to the task of regulating for sustainability in consumer products. Drawing on research conducted into sustainability in the mobile phone lifecycle, this paper examines the regulatory ecology of hotspots of unsustainability in the product lifecycle of electronics. This paper finds that the interaction of regulatory disjunctures, business models, design of technology, and marginalisation combine to ensure that our systems of production and consumption are predisposed to resist regulation aimed at sustainability.
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