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Monday, June 26, 2006

Is green the new white?

The story that broke today about ‘green’ PCs and, more to the point, the amount more that users are willing to pay for them, was another opportunity for technology companies to jump on a friendly social issue.

Apart from Greenpeace – which commissioned the study – Dell seems to be the biggest recipient of positive coverage, with its own nicely-timed announcement that it plans to phase out dangerous chemicals from its products cross-referenced all over the place.

For once, Apple was mentioned in a negative light as a member the list of computer manufacturers yet to commit to eliminate hazardous materials from their products.

Are consumers really willing to pay more for greener PCs? According to the study, UK buyers are willing to spend £75 more. But when it comes to purchasing greener power, such as electricity from providers that source renewable energy, it’s been demonstrated time and time again that the public will only sign up if it’s the same price as ‘brown’ energy, or cheaper.

In the consumer electronics market, where prices are constantly being squeezed and expectation always rising, are consumers really likely to pay almost another £100 to ensure they get a green one? I doubt it. People are likely to say they’ll pay more – but when it comes down to it, they mean well but won't follow through.

Call me cynical, but this story appears to be another classic piece of solar-powered spin. If I was Mr Dell, I’d look at making my green PCs cheaper AND better than my normal ones, and doing something really responsible. That might even make Apple sit up and take notice.

Originally posted at LEWIS 360.


Blogger City Hippy said...

Good point Jon although whilst price will not matter for all it seems to matter for many as the organic and fairtrade grocery revolution seems to indicate.

Not everyone will buy a more expensive greener option...but some or many will. Which will make it a competitive issue and drive green PC development further and faster.



11:23 am  
Blogger PR Monkey said...

It's easy to criticise consumer electronics companies for their green credentials, but consider it from their point of view for a moment.

The average margin for consumer electronic goods is around 5-10 per cent. Given that the WEEE Directive will cost manufacturers around £5-10 per product purchased, then profits on products in the sub £150 price range will be virtually wiped out - unless the consumer is charged more. And WEEE is just one of a number of EU environmental directives targeted at the consumer electronics industry that will be costly to implement.

So the greener Dell gets, the less likelihood there is of prices going down.

So calling for greener AND cheaper products is like asking for healthier and cheaper school meals. The reason our kids eat Turkey Twizzlers is the same reason why we don't buy green. We're not prepared to put our money where our ideals are - and in that, I agree with you.

9:40 am  
Anonymous Nick said...

See your point City Hippy, but the organic revolution is (for most) about what we put into our bodies rather than an appreciation of the wider environmental issues at stake.

Fairtrade is great too, it makes us feel a bit better about our bananas, but is still a tiny proportion of the goods bought in supermarkets today.

So while we'll happily pay a bit more to ward off future health issues, it isn't a logical step that we'll pay more for a greener PC. In consumer electronics, price and/or brand are still king. The rest is a nice byproduct.

Have to say I agree with the monkey (which comes as a surprise to me). Most of us like to think we believe in ethical practices, but only if payment comes from somebody else's wallet...

12:24 pm  
Blogger Jon said...

Two words - Jamie's School Dinners.

6:03 pm  
Blogger PR Monkey said...

That's three words...

Jamie's campaign was about improving school dinners through spending more on healthier ingredients and better preparation. Ergo we, the public, would have to fork out more through extra government funding (no pun intended).

Even though he may like to think he is, Jamie is no mockney Jesus and can't transform Turkey Twizzlers into a vitamin bursting dish with his mystical powers alone.

Could you imagine Jamie as Jesus? "Awright, the meek geezers, you know, will inherit the earth. Pukka."

I'll get my coat.

7:00 pm  

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