Sonos Wants to Be Carbon Neutral by 2030, but No Word On Planned Obsolescence

Sonos Wants to Be Carbon Neutral by 2030, but No Word On Planned Obsolescence
Photo: Gizmodo

Sonos on Wednesday announced a new product sustainability program with a lofty carbon neutrality goal for its entire line by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2040.

The program — part of the brand’s newly announced Climate Action Plan — is broadly designed to reduce the e-waste and emissions generated by Sonos’ products in service of a renewed commitment to long-term sustainability. In achieving that goal, Sonos has partnered with a third-party organisation called VitalMetrics, which will map the carbon footprint of each phase of a product’s lifespan, from design to packaging and shipping to its use and eventual retirement.

“With our Climate Action Plan, we’re entering a new phase in our commitment to environmental responsibility, stepping up our efforts across the board to reduce our impact,” Patrick Spence, the CEO of Sonos, said in a statement. “Sonos is a company founded on innovation; we are invigorated by the challenge to innovate and create better solutions for our customers and for the planet.”

In addition to conducting its first ever product environmental life cycle assessment this year, Sonos also announced a list of short and long-term goals that will ostensibly help it achieve better energy efficiency. Among those targets will be getting its entire product line loaded up with a “sleep mode” setting, with the goal of reducing idle power consumption to less than 2 watts for its entire portfolio while a device isn’t in use. While Sonos estimates that the lifetime use of its products accounts for roughly 75% of the company’s carbon emissions, that differs from consumer electronics more broadly, which a report from Greenpeace estimates usually have more than 70-80% of their carbon footprint produced during the manufacturing process.

The company also plans to begin replacing virgin plastics used in its packaging with post-consumer recycled plastic, and will also double down on its existing efforts to extend the lifespans of its existing products, which it began earlier this year with a new Design for Disassembly function. Under that new program, all new speakers and components will be built with parts that are simpler to repair and recycle — such as fasteners instead of adhesives.

A commitment to lowering emissions is all well and good; in fact, more consumer electronics companies should be following in Sonos’ footsteps and making similar commitments to reduce their e-waste and carbon footprint. The fact of the matter remains, however, that Sonos has a pretty spotty record when it comes to recycling as it is, and this program is just scant enough on details that it’s tough to know just yet whether or not it will be effective in the long run.

In the past two years, Sonos has been rightly called out for its Trade Up hardware recycling program, which initially incentivized customers to brick their devices before redeeming them, rendering them impossible to refurbish and resell. Although the company eventually reversed course on that decision, no longer requiring users to put their devices into Recycle Mode in order to redeem them, Sonos has also come under fire in the last year for its decision to retire some of its older models, ceasing to roll out software updates for the outdated products, which serves to push people to upgrade perhaps unnecessarily.

Still, aside from the e-waste inevitably generated by planned obsolescence, Sonos is a company that does pretty good on product longevity on the whole, and the fact that it’s redoubling its efforts on the sustainability front is a good sign.