News & Insights

The Big Sustainability Themes at CES 2023

CES is the world’s most influential tech event. It’s where big brands unveil the ideas, innovations and products that will shape the consumer technology landscape. Here’s our quick round-up of key themes we spotted at CES this year and the innovative people and businesses who are pushing the boundaries in sustainability.

1 - Circulation in Action

For us, increasing the circulation of mobile devices is hugely important as it’s the best way for the industry to achieve sustainability gains. It’s encouraging to see a wide range of consumer electronics manufacturers at CES who are designing and manufacturing products with sustainability in mind.

At CES, LG VP John Taylor announced that LG is on a mission to make all its products sustainable from the beginning to the end of their life cycles. Circulation becomes much easier when consumer products are designed to last longer and to be easily repairable. Reusable components are also part of this, and Infineon president Bob Lefort is also committed to helping people do more with less and embedding sustainability into its semiconductors. Panasonic announced its new Take Back for Tomorrow program, where its customers can register for pre-paid shipping to return their used electric shavers and trimmers to be recycled, or so that reusable components such as batteries can be reclaimed instead of ending up in landfill. Participants also receive a discount on a new, more sustainable Multishape shaver.

Image credit: Panasonic, CES 2023

2 - Sustainability Without Compromise

As governments around the world work to limit global warming and protect natural resources and biodiversity, more companies are committing to building sustainable supply chains and reducing emissions. At CES, we saw a growing trend where businesses use innovation to create products and services that change the world for the better – without compromising their product, service or offer.

Samsung and Patagonia are working together to address the problem of microplastics shedding during the laundry process and polluting oceans. The result: select new Samsung washing machines will be equipped with a Less Microfiber Cycle and Filter – while the filter will be available separately and is compatible with all brands of washing machines. Both the cycle and filter can dramatically reduce the spread of microplastics into the world’s oceans. Austin-based Pivet showcased biodegradable phone cases at CES featuring Self-Cycle™ technology that biodegrades in landfill environments within five years – it currently takes between 450 and 5000 years for current plastics to break down.

Image credit: Samsung, Vincent Stanley, CES 2023

3 - 5G Starts to Inspire New Devices

In terms of sustainability, the global 5G rollout has a mixed outlook. The introduction of 5G technology increases speeds and significantly reduces power consumption, but of course it means new devices and infrastructure are needed. With flagship 4G phones still in high demand, though, we’re working hard to make sure those used phones find new users. Also, 5G can potentially make wired internet obsolete for many use cases, which could dramatically reduce the need for wifi routers, cable laying projects and infrastructure.

VR and AR technology aren’t ready to work over 5G in mass-market products – but we are getting closer. Dan O’Brien, president of HTC Americas, said its new Vive XR Elite headset doesn’t support 5G but added that “we think headsets of the future will be 5G-enabled.” The big VR story at CES was the Sony PlayStation VR2 headset, which comes to market in February with over 30 games. Samsung andTCL both launched new 5G handsets at the show, but the real excitement was around more groundbreaking tech like the new Razer Edge 5G handheld gaming gadget from Verizon and Razer, which goes on sale later this month. The device supports fast-twitch video games over 5G and is compatible with cloud gaming services like Xbox Cloud Gaming, Nvidia GeForce Now and Steam Link – exactly the kind of resource-hungry application that 5G was designed for.

Attending this year’s event in Las Vegas, Nevada, it was great to see how many of the world’s top technology manufacturers have made sustainability a fundamental part of their businesses – but we still have a long way to go. As analyst Maribel Lopez put it at this year’s show: “Sustainability is a key pillar for most consumer electronics organizations, but we’re just at the beginning of the journey.”

Image credit: TCL - Mark-Zhang, CES 2023