Sonos announced plans today to make its speakers and other products last longer and use less energy. It’s part of the company’s larger plan to make itself more sustainable, with a focus on minimizing e-waste and the pollution that drives climate change.
A big part of Sonos’ new plans is to extend product lifespans by making its devices easier to repair and recycle. This year, the company started a “Design for Disassembly” program that it wants to guide the development of all of its new speakers starting in 2023. That includes changes like swapping out adhesives for fasteners, which can make it easier for consumers to take apart Sonos products for repair.
There isn’t much information out on this program yet, however. When asked, Sonos did not said whether it will also make replacement parts and repair manuals available — details that will determine how repairable its products are in practice. But the program is intended to “make it easier to repair, refurbish and, eventually, recycle future Sonos products,” Deji Olukotun, Sonos director of policy and corporate social responsibility, said in an email.
The company also plans to start using post-consumer recycled plastic in all of its products by the end of 2023. This might prevent some plastics from winding up in landfills, oceans, or animals’ bellies — but recycling overall has been a pretty paltry solution for the world’s plastic pollution problem. Plastic degrades each time it’s re-hashed, which is why most tech companies have to mix recycled plastics with virgin plastics to make new products. That has some experts worried that a hot market for recycled plastics could actually lead to more demand for new plastics as well.
By 2023, Sonos says that all of its products will include “sleep mode,” a feature that cuts down on power consumption while the device is idle. Some companies already have sleep mode on their speakers, but Sonos just debuted the feature this year on its Roam speaker. The goal is for Sonos products to ultimately use less than 2 watts while idle.
By making its speakers more energy-efficient, Sonos is tackling the company’s biggest source of planet-heating carbon dioxide emissions. According to Sonos, about 75 percent of the company’s carbon footprint comes from the energy its products’ use over their lifetime. That differs from consumer electronics more broadly, of which up to 80 percent of CO2 emissions typically come from manufacturing, according to a report by Greenpeace. Between Sonos’ supply chains and consumers’ energy use, Sonos says it was responsible for CO2 emissions equivalent to 267,528 cars driven over a year.
The company is setting more long-term goals for addressing climate change, too. It wants to cut emissions from its products’ energy use by 45 percent by 2040, and Sonos wants to essentially cancel its entire footprint by that date by relying on a mixture of carbon offsets and new technologies that remove CO2 from the atmosphere.
But offsetting climate pollution by paying for forests to naturally soak up carbon dioxide has a checkered track record. And technologies capable of pulling CO2 out of the air haven’t scaled up to meet the needs of all the companies promising to use them to erase their legacy of pollution. That makes it all the more urgent for Sonos to focus on reducing its environmental footprint in the first place.