Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now


Sharp/NEC forum sparks lively debate about green AV

A passionate audience listened to three industry experts discuss sustainability challenges and propose solutions, at the Sharp/NEC Sustainability Forum, on day 1 of the Peerless AV Showcase, at Lord’s

As an additional event for attendees of the annual Peerless AV Showcase, at Lord’s, on May 14 and 15, Sharp/NEC issued an open invitation to take part in a Sustainability Forum on day one. While the main AV showcase was attracting record numbers of exhibitors and attendees, the forum in the Indoor Cricket Centre was well-attended and inspired passionate audience involvement. The overarching theme was: “To what extent is CSR transforming the procurement process in real-world scenarios?” Sharp/NEC, a company renowned for its sustainability initiatives, invited three expert panellists to respond to questions about making green purchasing decisions.

The forum featured a keynote speech from Florian Rotberg, on screen

Following a sit-down lunch for attendees, the forum began with a keynote speech from sustainability thought leader Florian Rotberg, managing director of Invidis Consulting, one of Europe’s leading publishers. The main panel discussion followed, with Rotberg being joined by Sheila Egan, AV design principal for teaching and learning spaces at UCL, and Jenny Hicks, group head of market intelligence for Midwich. Installation content writer David W Smith posed the questions. The goal was not to reach definite conclusions, but to explore a multi-faceted topic that everyone must address. Nevertheless, key themes emerged, such as the need to realign spending priorities to become less consumer-driven, in favour of a long-term outlook.

In his keynote speech, Florian Rotberg stressed the urgent need to realign purchasing priorities to become more sustainable in the long-term, even if it meant paying a bit more. In the EU, for example, the cost of carbon credits is expected to rise dramatically from $11 to $200 per tonne in five or six years. “That means you can’t afford to wait until 2030. When you choose products nowadays, you have to make sure the power consumption is as low as possible and you activate all the sensors. Many premium screens have brightness sensors integrated, but the vast majority of customers don’t activate them, which is a waste,” he pointed out.

Rotberg gave examples of initiatives, and products, that have addressed sustainability intelligently. For example, Deutsche Bahn introduced an initiative to turn off platform displays when there were no trains coming for the next 30 minutes. Such screens typically have high brightness and the scheme saved 25% of the energy. “Multiplied by thousands and thousands of screens, that makes a huge impact,” Rotberg said.

One product he found especially exciting was the ePaper display, such as the Sharp/NEC solutions for 13in and 25in displays. Although they cannot be used for moving images, they provide a sustainable alternative to printed posters. “We’re seeing huge interest in ePaper displays. The Sharp/NEC devices can run on batteries for years. The only downside is they’re still quite small, but I expect 75in screens to be possible in the coming years, which is almost a door size and could revolutionise how we use screens,” he argued.

Rotberg praised Sharp/NEC as a sustainability leader in the AV industry. He pointed to Sharp/NEC’s global service offering, which aims to minimise shipping distances. “If you buy screens from some competitors, you buy them in say Spain, then ship around the world, you’ll only get the service in the country where you bought the screen. Most competitors are now attempting to copy the Sharp/NEC service,” he added.

The Sharp ECO Vision 2050 sets out two ambitious goals to reach by 2050: To create more clean energy than the total amount of energy consumed in Sharp’s entire supply chain, and to achieve net-zero CO2 emissions in business activities. As stepping stones, Sharp’s goal for 2030 is a 40% reduction in CO2 emissions, then 60% by 2035.

Sharp/NEC’s products are designed to be recycled at the end of their life cycle: NEC displays, for example, boast a recyclability ratio of 97.4%. The use of metal for the major materials in its LED and LCD products feeds the circular economy as it is 100% recyclable. Sharp/NEC also avoids adhesives in product design. For one reason, adhesives are made up of plastics that cannot be recycled; another reason is that glueing components severely limits repairability.

The forum was part of the Peerless AV showcase, at Lord’s

“Sharp/NEC does a great job of building screens which can be fixed. You can replace certain items, and you don’t have to send them around the world,” commented Rotberg. “And they also do a great job refurbishing, especially LED and projectors. You can refurbish them, replace some of the main components and use them for the next five or 10 years. Much of the refurbishment is done in Europe, so it’s not about shipping them around the world.”

Rotberg says Sharp/NEC is addressing one of the biggest problems facing companies, which is finding a way to switch screens off when not in use. Rotberg describes a panicky call from an airport director, faced with new environmental regulations in Germany after the outbreak of the Ukraine-Russia war. “He told me, ‘Florian, we have 55in LED screens and I cannot turn them off. They’re installed and designed to run 24/7 and the new regulations say they’re only allowed to operate for eight hours’,” Rotberg told the audience.

To resolve this issue, Sharp/NEC has designed a remote power control for LED walls, called the LED-RPS-CL-R. “This small box manages peaks and prevents overloads. So you can safely turn on and off large LED screens every day. That’s really important. And let’s face it, if you invest $50,000 or $100,000 on an LED wall, you shouldn’t save on the $1,500 or $2,000 for a box like this.”

During the panel discussion, Sheila Egan summed up her feelings about sustainability in AV: “I work on putting AV into buildings that are being built, or refurbished, and there’s a real lack of a holistic approach to sustainability throughout the industry. For me, building designers need to work hand in hand with the AV procurers and think about the future. But I find a lot of short-sightedness and a failure to build in key items, such as additional data points to ensure the building is flexible with regards to services,” she said.

One solution with potential, she argued, was installing AV over IP as it could be more sustainable and adaptable. “But again we need the building designed to have those data points so it can be scalable and the buildings can adapt. As an industry we need to think about how we talk to architects and build buildings for the next 100, or 200 years,” she told the audience.

Jenny Hicks felt sustainability could at times feel like a “game of politics”, as reporting directives could produce unfair results. For example, Midwich had introduced a salary sacrifice electric car scheme in 2023. But before that everyone had car allowances. “So we increased our carbon emissions as a result of doing something good for the planet as we hadn’t logged them as company cars the previous year,” she explained.  “As you start green initiatives on a corporate level, you may inadvertently come up the scale in terms of carbon emissions, before you start to see an improvement.”

Using metal for major materials in Sharp/NEC’s LED and LCD products feeds the circular economy

The recyclability of products is the “absolute answer to this”, Hicks claimed. But the consumer and IT industries have been quicker off the mark than AV. “We came across a company that collects IT equipment and breaks it into multiple components. You get cash for what they sell on, as well as carbon offsets. This is something we need to offer for AV and make sure the reusable components find their way back into manufacturing. Then we can begin producing products from post-consumer materials and that is the utopia ,” she argued.

When it comes to spending more now for long-term gain, some companies are in a more fortunate position than others. Sheila Egan says at UCL she is able to make the case for spending more for long-term benefits. “It might be harder for smaller universities, but I can make the argument that we need to work with a more expensive product because it’s more sustainable and could last seven years, not five. It’s an argument we can start to make because UCL has a net zero target by 2030,” she explained.

A further challenge discussed at the forum was comparing eco credentials as competing manufacturers report energy efficiency differently. Standards such as SBTi (Science Based Targets Initiative), EcoVardis, and many others, make for a confusing picture . “Should I use an EcoVadis rating? Is that a good measure? Should I look at the CSRD report? And the answer is nothing is perfect yet, and I’m not sure that it’s going to be in two or three years,” added Hicks.

“There is no one-size-fits-all. However, there are ratings companies out there. And I think there is no harm in working with the one that fits your establishment the best, because you will learn things about leakage and excess. So it’s a good exercise whether you outsource, or run it internally. But I think once more companies are in scope to report in line with government regulations, many current independent ratings might fall aside because you’ll be able to view what they are able to put out through legislation anyway. But there’s no harm in starting now. And then hopefully, we’ll have an upward trend.”

A warm round of applause greeted all the participants following the lively discussion, during which audience members had described their own experiences and asked challenging questions to the experts. All agreed that a rich picture had emerged of the practical complexity of taking decisions in the real world, but with many constructive solutions being proposed.