How LG, Samsung are leading in energy-efficient electronics

How LG, Samsung are leading in energy-efficient electronics

Companies behind this year's new televisions, mobile phones, appliances and numerous electronics gadgets are all trying to point out each product's unique features and innovative characteristics. They're competing for air time, after all.

But there is one sensibility they all share this year – a much sharper focus on leading-edge energy efficiency and other sustainable business considerations.

In the past, news about bigger screens or faster performance might have been the sole focus of competitive marketing campaigns. Now, energy conservation or better battery performance are also held up for consumer consideration on the checklist of critically important specifications.

There has been a veritable barrage of examples over the past several weeks, especially from two of the biggest names in consumer electronics and appliances – Korea's LG Electronics and Samsung Electronics.

"The electronics industry is evolving at an unparalleled rate, largely due to consumer preference, energy regulations, and corporate sustainability practices," said Sara Greenstein, president of UL Environment, an independent organization that is helping companies validate their claims.

It is also allied with EPEAT, which manages a registry of environmental rating for electronics and computing technology.

"Companies like Samsung are rising to the challenge to lessen the environmental impacts typically associated with these products," Greenstein said.

Samsung Scores Industry First

Two Samsung LED televisions, for example, are the first products to be blessed with the rigorous IEEE 1680 sustainable product certification, verified by UL Environment.

Next page:  Achieving a positive rating

The umbrella rating covers several product categories and considers the following criteria: use of environmentally sensitive materials, design for end of life, product longevity, energy conservation, end-of-life management, corporate performance and packaging.

"Achieving [this] sustainable product certification shows our customers that Samsung is dedicated to delivering environmentally preferable products that do not compromise or functionality," said Hyogun Lee, senior vice president of the Samsung visual display business unit.

The Samsung 55-inch and 46-inch LED TVs were certified at the Gold level, the highest possible rating for environmental performance. (At least right now, that is).

LG makes broad commitment

Samsung's rival LG is making liberal use of two other environmental labeling designations, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Energy Star program and the CarbonFree designation developed by Carbonfund.org Foundation.

During 2012, LG's sales of the products using the elite Energy Star Most Efficient rating increased by 75 percent to more than 750,000 units. LG has earned the label – which identifies the top five percent of products in a given category for efficiency - on more than 60 TVs, air conditioners, refrigerators and washing machines.

Consumer purchases of LG products carrying this label will reportedly save more than $150 million in electricity costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions about 930 million pounds over the lifetime of the products, according to LG estimates.

It hasn't stopped with Energy Star. Six LG products were recently deemed carbon-neutral under CarbonFree including the Optimus G smartphone, its new OLED TV, a washing machine, a refrigerator, a vacuum cleaner and a computer monitor.

"As an environmentally responsible company, we have strengthened our commitment to bringing energy-efficient products to market," said Skott Ahn, chief technology officer of LG Electronics. "But I'll be the first to admit that this is a marathon, not a sprint, and we still have a long way to go."

To that end, LG recently aligned very closely with the EPA in a first of its kind arrangement between the U.S. environmental agency and a leading consumer electronics and appliance manufacturer.

The far-reaching memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed by the two in Dec. 2012 calls for LG to participate in pretty much every program that the EPA runs – from product stewardship to water conservation to green building design to sustainable fleet and energy management.

LG will submit an annual progress report that the EPA will use to help the company further improve its environmental performance, according to the MOU's terms.

Given the fiercely competitive nature of consumer electronics and household appliances, it's more than likely that we will see other leading manufacturers take similar measures to improve their green business credentials.

Photo of appliances for sale provided by Serghei Starus via Shutterstock.