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Thinking about the electronics we consume

January 13, 2008

The other day, Piers at PSFK posted an angry editorial about CES.

“Another year, another electronics and gadgets conference that is out of
whack with modern concerns around sustainability and the planet. The C.E.S.
is an arrogant refusal to admit to the problems the electronics
industry has created in terms of material waste, poisonous polution,
energy waste and over-consumption.”

He is not alone, today’s New York Times Magazine has a great piece by Jon Mooallem called “The Afterlife of Cellphones”.

The piece explores the world of cellphone recycling and tries to
understand why we need to constantly upgrade our phones. Reading the article forces you to think again about waste.

Jon concludes;

“Even the most idealistic visions of how e-waste should be recycled and
reused take for granted that consumers and businesses will never
reconsider why we are buying and discarding so many of those products,
so quickly, in the first place. If the rush of castoffs isn’t likely to
stop, we need to clear a proper path for it, considering all the
inevitable compromises and costs along the way and delivering those
products to as consequenceless a place as possible.”

Most companies seem pre-occupied with creating “lust’ for their objects that ensures continued market share and admiration.

While on the surface, this doesn’t appear to be a responsible attitude, it reflects the realities of the marketplace.

Consumer electronics are the new fashion, so much so, that they are
taking share from the fashion business and it’s one of the reasons the
US sports shoe business is so soft right now.

The presentation below is from the design team at Nokia and it does a
fantastic job at explaining how the company creates lust objects. It’s
all insights and needs driven, but it does nothing to bring
sustainability into the mix.

This is a battle about hearts, minds and marketing.

With Macworld coming up this week, Apple and Steve Jobs are masters in the creation and marketing of lust objects, they do it so well.

Governments aren’t going to force the issue, pressure groups like
Greenpeace have limited voice, change is going to need to come from the

If companies want sustainability to be considered, they are going to need to do as good a job as Apple in making it sexy.

On the positive side, it appears to be easier than ever for new brands
to enter the consumer electronics space, just look at flat panel TVs
for that.

Could here will be a new electronics brand with real sustainability
built into its DNA that emerges in the next couple of years?

Could, somewhat ironically, that brand come from China?

Posted by Ed Cotton

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