Sustainability

From design to disposal: why green product is a must for sustainability

As we transition to renewable energy and electrification there is concern over the environmental impact of new products and technologies like batteries used in electric vehicles or solar panels. There are legitimate questions around the mining of materials like lithium, cobalt, nickel, manganese, and graphite (pollution from mining, conditions of workers, geopolitical issues), the manufacturing process itself, as well as the disposal or recycling of the products. At Schneider Electric we believe that taking responsibility for all of this is crucial to achieving environmental sustainability. Being concerned about sustainable operation of our plants and processes is not enough. We also need to take into consideration what we call green product.

What is green product?

As awareness grows and we strive to keep the rise in global temperatures below 1.5 degrees Celsius, we as consumers want to know the products we buy have been manufactured in an environmentally responsible way. For a product to truly be ‘green’, it starts with design. To achieve carbon neutrality in the manufacturing, the supply-chain, and the product itself, design criteria of 5R must be considered. When a product no longer works properly or serves our needs could be Repaired, Reused, Refurbished, Remanufactured or Recycled?

It’s important to realize that consumers are the drivers of green product. According to a study done in December 2021, customers are willing to pay between 5 and 10% more to have access to sustainable products, compared to non-sustainable products. To be sure that a product is sustainable consumers need to know exactly what components, constituents, or ingredients it’s made of. EcoStruxure Traceability Advisor can help by allowing CPG companies to monitor the authenticity of ingredients along the supply chain with digital technology.

When it comes to manufacturing processes, EcoStruxure Clean-In-Place Advisor can also help CPG companies manufacture their products more sustainably by giving them greater visibility of real-time analytics and plant operations. This can reduce the amount of energy and chemicals used in their cleaning processes, which is significant when you consider that a CIP system can consume as much as 20% of the total utility energy resource in some operations.

Leading the way towards green product with Green Premium

We’ve addressed this issue in our own company by launching the Green Premium in 2008. We further enhanced program in 2022 to help our customers reach new levels of sustainable performance. For us, the Green Premium program is a driver of sustainable business performance, promising:

  • Transparent environmental information about Schneider Electric products available digitally 24/7.
  • Minimal use of hazardous substances in, and beyond, compliance with regulations (RoHS, REACh). For example, we’ve designed our automation boards to make products like the Modicon M580s compliant with RoHS regulations.
  • Environmental Disclosures such as a Product Environmental Profiles (PEP) to provide robust environmental information.
  • Circularity Profiles to provide guidance on responsible product disposal and recycling along with circular value propositions.

 

How we’re delivering on the green product promise

We’re proud to say that many of our automation and robotics products, including Modicon PLCs, LexiumTM  MC12 multi carrier, and Human Machine Interface (HMI), are Green Premium. In fact, today, more than 75% of Schneider’s product sales come from Green Premium products. One of them, the SF6 free circuit breaker, is a great example of applying green product principles for the entire life cycle of a product.

It’s significant because medium voltage switchgear (very common electrical equipment) has a long life span (up to 30 years) and SF6 is the most potent greenhouse gas of all, with a global warming potential 23 500 times higher than CO2. Instead of SF6 our new circuit breakers use pure air and vacuum technology. There are a lot of circuit breakers out there and it will take some time to replace them all responsibly, so we’re also developing solutions to help our customers recycle the old equipment to replace them.

 

Embracing green product principles means achieving sustainability from design to manufacture to disposal. Doing so not only attracts the more environmentally conscious buyers (remember, those ones who are willing to spend more on a green product?), but also leads to a more efficient industrial enterprise, which is more profitable and sustainable for the long term. And when it comes to the planet, we’re in it for the long term.

Want to know which industrial automation products are Green Premium?

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