It’s not easy being green

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Consumers are increasingly becoming aware of the benefits of eco-efficient products. As well as messages about the environmental aspects of such technology, the exponential increase in green products has been largely fuelled by the recent economic downturn, as consumers try to save as much cash as possible.

Owen Watters, sales and marketing director at Roberts Radio explains: “Because customers have had to become more resourceful with their money, it’s meant that they’re looking for quality products that will go the extra mile for their money. With this in mind, we ensure that our products are as environmentally friendly as possible which in turn also benefits the customer by being more cost effective and affordable”.

A recent poll of more than 4,000 customers by radio manufacturer Pure showed that 96% of them consider energy saving when buying consumer electronics products. While 53% of them said that this was for cost-saving reasons, 38% said that it was for environmental reasons.

A similar poll of 1000 consumers carried out by Sony showed that 62% of respondents consider choosing a more energy-efficient product to be a good way to save money.

Roberts’ Owen Watters reiterates these points, commenting: “The consumer is seeking products that are low in energy consumption, including features such as improved battery life and built-in battery chargers. They’re also looking at the overall ‘green’ credentials of companies behind the products. As well as being kinder to the environment, our green products help save consumers money because the power they’re consuming is reduced”.

Although consumers are increasingly aware of the green message, it’s important to remember that this is not the only factor that they will be considering when making a purchase. As Simon Eves, general manager for environmental affairs at Panasonic UK explains: “It’s clear that most consumers don’t buy purely on eco-friendly features. Product performance, quality and value for money are still key factors in the decision making process. But by demonstrating the benefits of technology, this can also influence the consumer”.

Green benefits

Manufacturers are clearly already reaping the benefits of eco products, in the form of tangible sales results. “Pure’s ‘Less than a Light Bulb’ campaign, which ran in the second half of 2009, was a real success resulting in a sales increase of Pure Energy Saving Trust-accredited portable radios by almost 25% in that period”, says Colin Crawford, Pure’s director of marketing.

Figures from data company GfK also show that the trend towards eco-friendly products is visible in the TV sector. According to Paul Carrington, GfK account manager (CE): “We continue to see some positive movement in the trend towards lower energy usage, with a 5.5% increase in unit share for LCD TVs using 0 to 49 Watts per hour when switched on. Although a lot of the lower usage activity is still in the smaller screen sizes, we see energy usage being reduced across the range of screen sizes.

“In the 50in and over segment of the LCD market, sales of TVs using 250 or more Watts an hour are in decline, with TVs using 300 or more down 12.4% in terms of unit share comparing November 2009’s MAT to the previous MAT.

As we look towards 2010 where energy bills will go up, perhaps these positive trends will give the consumers food for thought when purchasing televisions”.

Recent legislation regarding consumer electronics has put targets in place for manufacturers to improve their energy-using products. Pure’s Colin Crawford states: “The recent introduction of the European EuP (Energy Using Products) Directive has not been a challenge for Pure as since launching EcoPlus in 2007, we have been working to reduce power consumption of all our products”.

Green products

So, what are the latest products in this sector and what green features do they include? Panasonic’s Simon Eves explains the benefits of the brand’s latest products: “By using the Eco link on our Blu-ray products, consumers can save as much as 60% power. When the TV is connected through a Blu-ray product using Vieralink, when the consumer has finished watching a film, the Blu-ray will immediately power down”. The company also highlights various other green aspects of its products, for example, its plasma TV panels are mercury and lead free. Another feature is ‘auto-off’, which automatically turns the TV off after a certain time without any input.

LG has made its plasma TVs more environmentally friendly by reducing the number of parts required by adopting a single-scan method after production. Many of their components are recyclable and they have also been designed so that they are easy to disassemble in order to facilitate the recycling process. LG’s TV marketing manager, George Mead, comments: “People are more interested than ever in products that offer eco-friendly features, especially as consumer confidence has been hit in the recession. This has always been very important to LG and in 2009, for the first time ever, the LG plasma TVs were certified by the Energy Saving Trust to reduce costs on electricity bills.

LG has successfully implemented new technologies to benefit the environment, along with helping consumers to save money. The award-winning intelligent sensor, for example, is seen as ‘best in class’ not just in reducing power consumption, but also optimizing picture quality for the consumer’s individual environment”.

Likewise, four of Pure’s latest products  – the Chronos CD series II, Chronos iDock II, Elan II and Siesta iDock – have all received endorsement from the Energy Saving Trust, taking the brand’s total number of products bearing this recommendation to 14.

Roberts Radio’s Ecologic range offers very low power consumption thanks to an advanced circuit design and energy-efficient AC adaptors, while several of the brand’s other products also boast improved efficiency and built-in battery chargers. According to Pure’s recent survey, 87% of respondents said that the Energy Saving Trust’s Recommended logo would positively effect their buying decision.

However, it’s important to remember that there are other stamps of eco-approval that can be useful to customers, such as the European Commission’s Eco Flower label, which has been awarded to 88% of Sony’s Bravia TV range. Initially available on its flagship Eco TV, a presence sensor that turns the picture off when you leave the room, is now making its way onto the rest of the TV lineup as well. Sony’s spokesperson further explains how Sony is embracing green technology, commenting: “Sony has committed to reducing the average energy consumption across it products by 30% by 2016. Our latest eco-friendly product is the Vaio W series. It comes with a carry case rather than being shipped in a box, has an electronic manual and 80% of the plastic parts are made out of recycled plastics enabling us to cut CO2 emissions during the manufacturing process by 10% compared to the previous model”.

Many companies are also taking advantage of consumers’ newfound interest in all things green, with all sorts of eco-friendly accessories hitting the market. One such company, Energenie, produces a range of automatic standby shutdown technologies. The brand not only highlights the eco-efficient and money-saving aspects of the products, but also puts emphasis on the safety angle, as the products are designed to reduce the risk of fires caused by electrical appliances.

Pure encourages retailers to stock its ChargePak which can help to save money and avoids the need to send alkaline batteries to landfill.

The corporate approach

Most major consumer electronics manufacturers have some sort of corporate stance on envir
onmental issues and sustainability. Panasonic puts a great deal of emphasis on its eco corporate strategy. It breaks sustainability down to three key areas – products, production and people. Simon Eve explains that this refers to: “The products themselves, the manufacturing and transportation of the products, and all the people at Panasonic who design and make them and otherwise support getting them to our customers. The focus for products is to reduce energy consumption in use and make best use of materials. We’ve set our own internal standards to reach and those that succeed can carry our ‘eco ideas’ logo. The company regularly runs eco activities for staff to underline its strategy within the company itself.

Sony is also extremely active on green issues says Sony’s spokesperson, stating: “From business processes and site management to technology innovation, Sony Europe is committed to manufacturing its products and running its operations in ways that help maintain a sustainable environment for the next generation.

“Sony UK has also recently signed the 10:10 campaign to encourage everyone to reduce their carbon footprint in 2010. Environmental responsibility is at the heart of Sony and it has already cut its CO2 emissions as a business dramatically and is now taking on the challenge to cut another 10% in 2010”.

Sony even recently encouraged customers to pose questions about it environmental policies on a national newspaper’s blog.

Pure’s EcoPlus philosophy is a far-reaching one and encompasses the design, manufacture, sales and disposal of all its products.

Roberts Radio’s key objective is to reduce power consumption in all its products. It also uses cardboard produced from recycled paper for its packaging and actively encourages customers to recycle all packaging materials too. The company provides PoS material for independent retailers to help sell its ecologic range and solarDAB radios and will be introducing marketing material for its new solarDAB II range this year.

According to a Sony survey, only 6% of sales assistants made any reference to the green credentials of a specific manufacturer during the purchasing process. So, it seems clear that in order to sell green products to consumers, it’s important to encourage staff to take a two-pronged approach, highlighting both the environmental benefits (of the product and the company) as well as the cost-saving aspects.

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