Canon Marketing Campaign Highlights Green Hype Problem Among Electronics Manufacturers


Photo by MJ/TR via Flickr CC

Canon has launched a new campaign this month to boost its line of green products intended to green up office spaces. Called GreenNation, the line-up has made its way from Japan to the Philippines and hopes to keep spreading across Asia and beyond. From these "greener" materials to improvements in energy efficiency, Canon is surely hoping their new products will raise the bar much higher for the competition in manufacturing more sustainable electronics. But upon a closer look, the GreenNation campaign smacks of doing-a-little-to-claim-a-lot, something all too common among electronics manufacturers. More and more often, we hear electronics manufacturers say that their gadgets are made with recycled materials -- which is definitely a good thing. Canon is is claiming not only this, but also that the new printers' exterior is made mostly of biomass plastic, a plastic whose raw materials are the starch, sugar, or cellulose contained in plants (such as PLA or corn-based plastic). If the content is being touted by news sources as 100% recycled plastic and the exterior is made of biomass plastic, then something is clearly amiss in Canon's claims.

At any rate, the printers are trimming their power consumption, using just 1 watt of power during hibernation. Canon claims that this is a 90% reduction in power use. But new electronics from televisions to monitors to computers are practically all using 1 watt or less of power during off or hibernation mode. So while it's great Canon's new printers achieve this level of efficiency, it's nothing to crow about at this stage in the efficiency race.

Canon is also providing "eco-image" paper, made from eucalyptus trees which grows rapidly and offer a more sustainable option for harvested woodpulp for paper products. But while eucalyptus is more replenishable than some other species of trees used for paper, it doesn't necessarily make it a green source. Using post-consumer recycled content in their paper would be a much more sustainable move (though admittedly also more difficult as post-consumer recycled content makes for lower quality paper).

Finally, Canon is offering a recycling program for ink cartridges through GreenNation, which should be a basic move for any printer manufacturer. Most manufacturers are already on the ball with this, with some even turning those cartridges into usable products like plastic lumber. But what about the recycling program for the printers themselves. Canon doesn't seem to make a mention of bolstering their existing recycling programs as part of GreenNation.

ABS-CBN News reports that Canon Chairman and CEO Alan Chng told the Manila press, "The success of taking care of the environment is not in the program, but on the people."

This is true since it is up to people to chose the most environmentally friendly products available, and make purchases and use printer only when absolutely necessary. But it is also true that manufacturers have to work a lot harder these days at producing truly sustainable products before they can use them as an edge in green marketing.

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Tags: Corporate Responsibility | Electronics | Gadgets