Eco-Coach

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Sustainability and the Consumer Electronics Show January 10, 2011

The world’s largest consumer technology tradeshow, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), took place last week in Las Vegas, Nevada. The tradeshow is run by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), which also produced something else of note last week: their 2010 Sustainability Report.

“CEA member companies have realized significant benefits from integrating sustainability into their business, from increased use of life cycle assessment in eco-design to further reductions of energy in the use phase of electronics, to innovative eCycling programs resulting in the recovery of millions of pounds of valuable resources.”

The 48-page report covers a range of topics in environmental and social performance, focusing on sustainable product and packaging design, sustainable facilities, sustainable transport and delivery, and eCycling. The report includes numerous case studies from member companies such as Best Buy and Apple, and these case studies bring up key questions for your consideration.

(1) What should be the focus of my business’s sustainability plan? This varies greatly for individual cases. For example, Apple completed a comprehensive life cycle analysis for every product and discovered that 97 percent of the company’s footprint is directly associated with its products and only three percent with its facilities. Therefore Apple has focused on designing its products to use less material, ship with smaller packing, and be as energy efficient and recyclable as possible. (See case study on p. 11.)

(2) How can we optimize the use of resources in our facilities? Greener buildings tend to reduce capital and operational costs and promote innovation, technological advancement and environmental protection. For example, Sony Electronics Inc. recently built a new head office building in San Diego which was awarded LEED Gold certification. Design elements included bicycle racks, dedicated parking spaces for staff who carpool to work or drive fuel-efficient vehicles, and efforts to use wood taken only from sustainably managed forests. (See case study on p. 21.)

(3) How well do we report our sustainability efforts? Many companies now publish sustainability reports in addition their annual corporate financial reports, communicating with customers, shareholders, communities and employees. All 10 of the largest CE companies issue reports that document corporate environmental and social performance. These reports are guided by the Global Reporting Initiative, and are published on their companies’ websites for convenient access.

(4) How can my business take initiative in our community? AMD, a semiconductor design company, has begun installing electric vehicle (EV) charging stations at locations in Austin, Texas, and Sunnyvale, California. The company believes that this initiative will serve as an example for other businesses in these areas, encouraging the growth of infrastructure for the EV market. It also will tip the balance for those employees and community members considering the purchase of an EV but who are concerned about the availability of charging stations nearby. (See case study on p. 28.)

The 2010 Sustainability Report can be found online at CE.org and is a good source of inspiration for many different aspects of commercial sustainability. CEA also recommends two additional reports for information on the consumer electronics industry and its sustainability efforts.

+ CEA 2010 Sustainability Report
+ The Energy and Greenhouse Gas Emissions Impact of Telecommuting and e-Commerce
+ Energy Consumption by Consumer Electronics in U.S. Residences

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