IFA, Berlin: Sony talks eco issues

Today we're in Berlin, at Europe's biggest consumer electronics show, IFA. Surrounded by thousands of TVs, Blu-ray players and hi-fi systems, it's the perfect place to talk about eco issues and how technology affects climate change.

To kickstart the conversation, we discussed all things eco with President of Sony Europe Fujio Nishida (above, left) and two staff dedicated to managing the company's eco strategy. Thomas Fischer (above, right) is General Manager of Environmental Affairs and Mats Pellback Scharp is Head of Sustainability at Sony Ericsson.

Sony has never been shy of flashing eco credentials and while it doesn't bang the drum as much as, say, Sharp does with its recently unveiled 'eco world-champion' message, there's lots going on behind closed doors.

In January, Sony's CEO, President and Chairman Sir Howard Stringer said he hoped all Sony products would use 50% less power in just a few years, and felt confident the company could make good on that promise. Today, it looks like things are progressing well.

Helping customers understand eco
With the message that technology should be part of a climate change solution, rather than the problem, Sony's keen to stress eco credentials from packaging to power use to recycling options and plans. "When a customer goes into a store, we want them to understand eco – then they'll feel good about buying an eco product," says Nishida.

"It's our responsibility to tell them and explain," he adds, before discussing the need to inform the public about Sony's plans, rather than shouting about eco as a USP.

The ideal scenario for Sony, explains Fischer, is to get customer information and contact details so it can manage the product through every stage of its life in terms of maintanance, repair and – importantly – where the product goes after it reaches the end of its useful life.

On-screen instruction manuals
Nishida points out that key developments in products mean that consumer demand is always high with new features appearing on TVs every six months: "I like my TV but in six months I see one with new features," he says, before Fischer explains how on-screen TV instruction manuals have reduced packaging and paper costs considerably over the last year.

Fischer also says that options such as solar panels are always considered for portable products like Sony's GreenHeart phones, but that the impact of actually making them is possibly a false economy. He doesn't rule out the use of them but explains that they need to be used by enough devices over time to be beneficial in terms of the environment.

Eco ratings
Other topics up for debate include using governments to spread the eco message by creating eco classifications or ratings on products, so consumers can not only see eco benefits but also make a judgement of saving money on products that consume less power.

It seems that, in current times, saving cash by reducing bills is very much on the agenda but, Nishida agrees, it's the job of the press as well as retailers to spread the message.

The goverment message will become clearer in December, however, when COP15, the UN Climate Change Conference kicks off in Copenhagen.

We'll be there of course and will bring you all the news and developments as they happen...