Monitoring sustainability in the IT sector

In the fast-paced IT sector, sustainability and e-waste are becoming more and more crucial for the development of businesses. MMD, the brand license partner for Philips monitors, understands that as a manufacturer, the company holds a lot of responsibility – but also the vision to tackle this issue holistically. By setting new industry standards, MMD aims to change monitor manufacturing as a whole. We have sat down and had a chat with Stefan van Sabben, MMD’s Global CSR and Sustainability Senior Manager to speak about sustainability, research and waste reduction.

Sustainability plays an increasingly important role in modern companies. How do Philips monitors/ MMD approach this topic?

We believe that the world faces a major challenge in terms of sustainability, and in order to survive and flourish, the whole industry needs to fundamentally rethink product development and business models. The increased concern for sustainability also reflects demands from consumers, who want to receive products with longer lifespans, are repairable and recyclable, and impact the environment the least amount possible. Most importantly, the driving force for this change should come from the companies and their respective workforces themselves. And that’s how we’re approaching this subject. We’re certain that words are not enough and action is long overdue for the sector. TPV’s intrinsic motivation to play a key role in this change process is reflected in all our employees – from top management positions to the intern. We strive to be a game changer and set new industry standards. Therefore, we’re taking a holistic approach. We’re improving existing portfolios to be more environmentally friendly, from sourcing sustainable materials used to create our products to using less packaging and less plastic to reduce waste. Moreover, we’re training our product design teams to create more sustainable products from scratch. By working with partners such as Closing the Loop (CTL), PACT and ForestNation, we’re thinking about the entire product cycle, from the very beginning of the supply chain – the mining of minerals – to what happens to the product after the end of its lifespan – as it turns to e-waste. Additionally, with our active engagement of planting forests in Africa we are supporting the local people and economies, while also strengthening nature’s best method to capturing carbon emissions for generations to come and reducing our carbon debt to the planet.

Is enough being done for sustainability in global IT/consumer electronics?

It requires an enormous amount of work and a continuous effort to change the world to be more sustainable – and all players in IT and consumer electronics need to dedicate themselves more to this development. The fast pace of technology naturally results in new products being developed in the IT/CE sectors much more frequently than any other industry. This also both complicates and stimulates the need to produce more sustainable products. Therefore, all players in the market and along the value chain need to act and help create overall sustainable processes. Right now at TPV, we’ve been increasing our use of recycled plastic in our products instead of using newly-made plastics. Our packaging now includes less plastic and more paper foam. We’re also experimenting with new materials. However, in order to establish holistic systems, we are now starting at the very base of the product cycle by introducing circular thinking (reduce, reuse, refurbish, repair and recycle) into our design and production processes. This will generate more comprehensive results, such as reducing the overall energy and material consumption during manufacturing, producing longer lasting or upgradable products, using recycled and recyclable (bio-based) materials and reinventing our business models to add services to match these ambitious goals.

Electronic waste is a pressing problem. As one of the leading monitor manufacturers, how do you tackle this issue?

Computer monitors contain only pretty small circuit-boards and were therefore considered hardly worth the effort of recycling. This is why we need to change the system as a whole.
We at MMD, the brand licence partner for Philips monitors, are collaborating with Closing the Loop (CTL) and TCO Development in a pilot project to reduce monitor waste. This project aims to ensure traceability, shipping and safe recycling of the collected waste, while a research institute (Öko-Institute e. V.) will focus on environmental and social risks. With this project, a certified process will be established and it will set new sustainability standards for the monitor industry. This is one important step to making monitor production more sustainable but it’s only the beginning of the entire industry’s transformation.

To be a sustainable brand, the product design and development teams have to innovate and think outside the box to envision and create products that help consumers and companies make a positive impact. We asked Artem Khomenko, Head of Product Development MMD, the brand license partner for Philips monitors, in which way sustainability is becoming a major focus point at every step of the product development.

How does sustainability influence MMD’s portfolio and design processes?

Sustainability is one key factor to the success of our business. We believe it offers us the chance to use our skills, expertise and relationships to enhance the future for individuals, our society in general and the environment we all live in.
It is now common in the CE/IT sector to have a Cradle to Grave (C2G) product lifecycle – all products, once introduced to the market, will ultimately end up as waste. Our ultimate goal is to overthrow this one-way lifecycle and transform it to a Cradle to Cradle (C2C) process. Right now we are introducing circular thinking and sustainable ideas in our entire company strategy, resulting in new products with more sustainable designs, features and packaging.

For instance, through incorporating sustainable ideas into the design processes we created a new bezel design that requires drastically less plastic compared to previous designs. Beyond this, we focus on aspects that make working more convenient by creating more monitors that feature USB-C technology, which makes many additional cables become obsolete and thus reduces e-waste.
As part of our green goals we are setting up a roadmap to convert all packaging from EPS foam to paper cushion and to further reduce plastic materials in our packaging, such as wires, plastic bags and CD-ROMs. For B2B monitors, we are switching entirely to brown cardboard boxes with more simple prints – saving valuable resources and paving the way for improved recycling of the used materials.

Circling back to products, which features of Philips monitors help users to work efficiently and more sustainability?

In terms of sustainability, our products have been first and foremost designed with a sustainability perspective before their production. We are also proud to be one of the first display manufacturers on the market with products that received the sustainability certification TCO Certified 9.0. In fact, with 64 monitors carrying this designation, we have the largest portfolio of models on the market accredited with TCO Certified 9.0!

The most obvious examples of our commitment are our “greenest” monitors to date, the 24” 242B1G and the 27” 272B1G. These models are equipped with a new LED backlight technology. Thanks to this, they can maintain brightness and colour consistency whilst using significantly less energy, reducing energy consumption and prolonging the lifetime of the model. The 24” model only consumes 8.6 W in Eco mode and just 12.8 W typically with the EnergyStar testing method. With the new categorisation of Energy Label classes in the EU starting from 2021, the 242B1G is rated class C, which only a small subset of monitors on the market were able to achieve. Both models are of course full of the green features that we’re already implementing in the rest of our portfolio. We use zero plastics and no harmful chemicals in our packaging of our green models, and we’re increasingly expanding this “green and sustainable” thinking to our entire portfolio. For example, the majority of our business models are made from 85% post-consumer recycled plastic and the casing of our monitors isPVC/BFR free. The packaging material we use is also 100% recyclable, and soon, we will transition to packaging with only single colour and ink for all B2B models, which will further reduce costs and allow better recycling. We equip many of our B2B models with PowerSensor and LightSensor features, which use infrared sensors. The former reduces the brightness when it detects no one is sitting in front of display. While the LightSensor, in comparison, is a feature that increases the users’ comfort, adapting the brightness of the screen according to the ambient light it senses, Moreover, many monitors in our portfolio fulfil multiple regulations, including EnergyStar 8.0, EPEAT, TCO Certified Edge and TUV Eye Comfort, and more. Additionally, our monitors are mercury-free and RoHS-compliant. In most of our business models, we also have a physical power switch, so the monitor will draw zero power from the mains when turned off. Finally, by integrating many features in the monitor itself that are essential to many businesses, such as a webcam, USB hub, KVM switch etc., we reduce further e-waste by eliminating the need for additional dongles, hubs and such products.