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Electronics Production | March 10, 2009

Sustainable practices and technologies gain traction in global Display Industry

Four out of five global electronic display companies have adopted environmentally-sustainable practices in their businesses, according to a recent iSuppli survey, indicating the greening of the display industry has moved beyond the talk phase and into actual practice.
In a recent iSuppli global survey of 520 display professionals from 200 companies, 80% of respondents said their companies are pursuing the use of environmentally benign materials. A total of 83% of respondents stated that their companies employ “green office” practices, such as recycling and using motion sensors to deactivate unused lights. Furthermore, a total of 73% said their firms are implementing programs to improve energy efficiency.

While such efforts often are presented as environmentally responsible initiatives, they also deliver bottom-line benefits for corporations participating in the LCD, plasma and other display-oriented and high-tech industries, according to iSuppli. “Implementing a sustainable corporate strategy can be a major revenue and cost-savings generator for any company that is thinking strategically about how it can improve its own global carbon footprint,” said Dr. Kimberly Allen, senior consultant to iSuppli. “These companies will gain a competitive advantage over those focused solely on the bottom line.”

The attached figure presents the level adoption of sustainable practices among the global display companies, based on iSuppli’s survey.



Sustainability: beyond environmentalism
The concept of sustainability has its precursor in environmental initiatives. These initiatives include design-for-environment efforts, zero-waste programs and conducting of life-cycle assessments of their products. Sustainability is distinct from environmental activity in that it goes beyond care for the physical Earth,” Allen noted. “Rooted in system-level thinking, sustainability encompasses both the human and the physical dimensions, as well as the time dimension, creating an economy and a society that can endure for the long term because they do not consume more than the ecosystem can naturally restore.”

Interestingly, sustainability is much less about across-the-board restraint than the earlier environmental movement because it requires conscious design and active management of resources to create cycles that give back value after taking resources for human use.

Green shift
Major factors driving the embrace of sustainability strategies include demand from consumers, investors and employees, all of whom are becoming more concerned and better informed about environmental issues. This has led to a requirement for a spotless green reputation in the marketplace within some industries. It has also influenced the ways in which businesses interact with their various stakeholders. Companies that accommodate such demands are likely to achieve better market performance, iSuppli believes.

Sustaining profits
Another consideration driving display companies toward environmentally-sustainable practices is cost savings. “The No.-1 way sustainability benefits companies during good economic times and bad is that it allows them to operate more efficiently and to save money,” Allen said. “For example, if a corporation cuts its energy use, it comes right off the energy bill. It has been found that most IT departments and companies are using at least 20% to 30% more power than they need to. “Companies are taking the low-hanging fruit by saving power and saving materials. If a company is making a product using X amount of materials, and it makes a process change to instead use 0.75X of materials, it is buying fewer parts—and helping the environment too.”

Displays of greenness
Beyond sustainable practices, display companies are implementing green technologies in their products. Some of the more innovative activity is occurring in bistable displays, which can display a fixed image with no power input. They also are gravitating toward Light-Emitting Diode (LED) backlights for large LCDs, which can reduce power consumption and the introduction of toxic materials into the environment. Other efforts include novel solution-processing techniques that save materials or energy; biologically-derived and -inspired materials; and the use of photovoltaics in conjunction with the display. Some companies also are experimenting with technologies that provide environmental benefits during the use phase, the time when the user owns the device.

Comprehensive commitment
“While iSuppli’s survey revealed that the vast majority of display firms have a strong interest in environmental considerations, few are approaching the issue from a truly strategic viewpoint,” Allen noted. “Because of this, most display companies may not be reaping the full benefits of implementing a comprehensive environmentally sustainable strategy.”

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