As in pretty much every other area of production these days, environmentalists are paying closer and closer attention to the state of electronics – what materials are used in their composition, and how energy efficient they are in their usage. Memory usage is also an important consideration as it affects the overall energy efficiency of electronics.
What exactly does this mean? Well, several things. First of all, a shift in the standards for components is taking place. During the early days of electronics production, manufacturers didn’t take environmental concerns into consideration. But since the “green revolution,” companies are being held to account for exactly what goes into their products. Today, “green electronics” are defined as electronics that use sustainable materials in their development and follow environmentally conscious practices.
And there are other elements to “going green,” as well. These days, companies (as well as associations, governments, and individuals) are being scrutinized very carefully to assess how well they meet the standards for environmental friendliness. And the pressure is growing for those not yet signed up to get on the bandwagon.
And let’s face it: We all want our businesses to grow up, whatever it may take. Let’s take a closer look at exactly what going green entails.
How did the concept of going green come about?
The movement towards a greener world has been coming about gradually ever since people started becoming more conscious of global warming. In the US, the Environmental Protection Agency started initiating green policies in the early 90s. One of the first major changes was the standardization of “sleep modes” on electronics, which prevented devices from wasting energy while not being used. Other countries soon started adopting similar measures, with Sweden and other European countries creating standards related to energy consumption and limiting the use of toxic materials in electronics manufacturing.
Today, these standards are widespread across many different countries. There are still a lot of challenges to be met in order to fully eliminate harmful materials from electronics and ensure their low-emissions usage, but both manufacturers and the general public are now much more aware of the need for concerted action. With the establishment of Corporate Social Responsibility metrics, and later the adoption of ESG (Environment, Social, Governance) standards by both governments and private companies, pretty much everyone involved in the manufacturing and legislating of electronics is somehow involved in the conservation effort.
In the electronics industry in particular, there are numerous different components and production aspects that companies need to pay attention to if they are to go fully green. Semiconductors, transistors, nanotubes and nanofibers, and many other parts have to be considered sustainable in order to meet the standards of most green groups.
How are companies taking advantage of this?
Claiming to go “green” is a popular choice among companies these days, because being environmentally friendly is something that resonates with conscientious consumers. When businesses create green business models, their priorities lie more with environmental conservation than strictly with profit. This can mean a number of different things: a greater focus on sustainable materials themselves, or an increased use of renewable power in their production.
Environmentally conscious consumers knows what they are looking for in sustainable products. In order to be successful in targeting this group, manufacturers need to know exactly what should go on their product labels. This includes the following:
- The elimination of specific types of materials in production, including lead and halogen
- Increased use of materials that are considered green, namely aluminum, borosilicate glass, iron alloy, and graphene
- Incorporation, in part or whole, of biomaterials. For example, there is a range of metal alloys that are derived from cellulose and other biomaterials
In addition, companies can advertise their product lines as green in general by creating marketing materials that incorporate well-known environmental messages. They can, for example:
- Include standardized messages on their products about carbon offset measures and/or the use of renewable energy in production
- Advertise the use of recycled material, in general
- Make note of reduced energy use in their products
- Emphasize adherence to sustainable corporate standards in general
To whatever extent possible, companies should be very specific in describing their green practices. Simply stating flatly that you support sustainability is not enough. Companies should list exactly the percentage of recycled material (energy conservation, etc) in their electronics production, and they should be prepared to prove their numbers if the green groups demand it. Environmentalists are a parti cularly pushy lot, of course, and they consider it their life mission to call out phonies on their bluffs.
Therefore, companies hoping to brand themselves as sustainable should really do their research about the standards before undertaking any green-driven marketing campaigns.
There is also a concept called “visual marketing” that companies are focusing on more and more recently. Visual marketing refers to marketing that uses visual images without the use of words. This can include photographs, videos, and other kinds of images that speak to a company’s message.
Visual marketing is considered to be a powerful tool among marketing professionals as images often portray a more bold, clear, and more immediate message than words do. For companies hoping to appear environmentally friendly, this can mean several things. The recycling triangle, for example, is a well-known symbol. Putting this on product labels can signal to the public that components will be recycled, rather than simply ending up in landfills. There is also an “eco-friendly” symbol that is becoming common.
Video clips and other types of visual images can also portray environmental friendliness. Each company needs to do its own research and decide which visual elements would be most logical in their marketing efforts.
It is also to the advantage of any company wanting to brand itself as environmentally conscious to become a member of well-known green associations. While recognition of some of these groups might vary from country to country, companies can start by taking whatever measures they consider most suitable in their home countries.
For example, in the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency has a standard known as the EPEAT – the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool – the registration criteria for which include meeting a number of standards with regard to materials, production, end-of-life management, as well as overall corporate standards. If a company’s products receive EPEAT registration, it is understood among potential consumers that the company is legitimately green.
In addition, membership in associations like the Better Business Bureau, as well as any of a host of green groups also adds credence to companies looking to brand themselves as sustainable.
Companies should also be conscious of WEEE standards. WEEE stands for Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment, and this term is used in environmental policies of the US, the EU, and other individual countries to describe end-of-life electronics. These countries emphasize in their legislation the need to recycle materials, rather than allow them to end up in landfills or dumps.
Truly invested companies should make a point of repeating their green messages across platforms. Don’t just put green labels on your products; ensure that your branding is consistent and at the forefront of all your social media efforts.
Whenever possible, try to gain backlinks to your website from well-known environmental groups. This will not only help lift your website up in the rankings, but it will give you a huge amount of credibility with your target audience.
Think about including testimonials on your social media, as well. And in addition to your own media, you should monitor consumer reviews on third-party platforms.
Take the time to study how other companies approach the subject. If you’re not sure which companies in your industry are best known for being environmentally responsible, look around online. When you figure out who is on top, make a point of researching their efforts and assessing which ones you can apply to your own business.
Staying on top of the sustainability game is constant work. Both the standards themselves, as well as the conditions that cause them are in constant flux. If you are in the electronics business, you should make an effort to keep up with the news from as many sources as possible.
This means several things: You should subscribe to updates from the associations that you become a part of. You should also read general business news about where different companies stand in terms of their environmental scorecard.
Also, you should regularly look at your competitors themselves to see what new measures they are taking to stay sustainable. This could include changes in components, production conditions, or other factors.
And once you’re educated, it will be time to review your own product line and see what needs to be improved. The main message will stay the same: Go green or go home.
Sarah Ludwig is an American freelance writer. She has been living and working in the former Soviet Union for over 20 years and her writing includes tech, finance, and marketing.