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B&O plans to Level up its Beosound products’ sustainability: Here’s how

Bang and Olufsen has announced a new initiative to improve the sustainability of its products, starting with the Beosound Level speaker which has achieved a “Cradle to Cradle” bronze certification.

The news was announced on September 2 by Bang and Olufsen Senior Global Product Manager for Classics and Product Circularity, Mads Kogsgaard Hansen, in a press briefing attended by Trusted Reviews.

The company claims the speaker is the first consumer product to meet the standard, which is created and run by the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute non-profit organization.

“[This is the] first ever Cradle to Cradle Certified Bronze audio product […] [It is] designed for longevity. Early on we asked ‘what is determining the lifetime of an audio product’? We did vast amounts of user research to find out,” said Hansen.

The Beosound Level was unveiled in February and is one of the firm’s latest premium wireless speakers. It’s available now with prices starting at $1499/£1099/€1249 for the Natural Aluminium model and €1299 for the Light Oak version. Trusted Reviews has yet to test the product, so we can’t comment on how it performs compared to the best wireless speakers we’ve tested this year.

The bronze Cradle to Cradle standard is a certification that aims to help companies design and manufacture sustainable products. It factors in everything from whether the product uses recycled parts, to the environmental impact of its supply chain.

Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute VP Strategy & Development, Christina Raab, explained:

“Cradle to cradle means that everything is a resource for something else. Waste is designed out of the products. This means you have to rethink their design and each step of the product life cycle.

“This is a global standard, it is the most ambitious we know of. It requires them to be safe, circular and responsibly made. The standard is updated on a yearly basis, to reflect the latest science. The fourth version announced this year. We based it on key pillars: Material health, product circularity, clean air and climate protection, water and soil stewardship, social fairness.”

Bang and Olufsen already guarantees it will only use FSC certified wood in its products and has run an initiative to reduce its supply chain’s carbon footprint. Bang and Olufsen’s Hansen explained the company took this further with the Beosound Level.

“We doubled down on customisation, to let the speaker, like a chameleon, change its skins. This is a functionality that should help you when you move on, change your taste, change your sofa or get a new paint [in your home] and want to update it to fit. We intend to add more emotional durability to the product design,” he said.

“That’s one element. But the next step is that there are limitations on battery technology – it will degrade over time. We’ve gone modular so with a simple screwdriver you can add a new battery pack.”

He added that the firm is also looking to leverage software updates and a new standard processor design to make the speaker offer even more longevity.

“Then a decade from now there could be changes in the tech landscape. To fix this we’ve done two things. First, in the early stages of the product architecture we brought extra processing power, so at the moment it only uses 50% of its processing power,” he said.

“This lets us adapt to changes in technology over time, to update it and improve performance. It lets us get extra time from the speaker. [Finally] Maybe 10 years from now it’s hard to predict what will happen, so we’ve tried to add longevity by making the processing module upgradable. A new chipset should fit in.”

Bang and Olufsen isn’t the first tech company to use a modular design to improve its products’ sustainability. Fairphone has been taking the approach for years with its Fairphone, Fairphone 2 and Fairphone 3 handsets.

The bronze standard is the lowest Cradle to Cradle certification. Raab said the firm is yet to award any product the top “Platinum” certification, and that the Level’s certification is only valid for two years. After that the product will need to be recertified, taking into account the changes to the certification standard and Bang and Olufsen’s future practices.

Bang and Olufsen claims the Level is the first of many products it aims to get Cradle to Cradle certified, saying it is part of a wider goal for the firm to become “a global leader” in sustainability within the consumer technology industry – which it claims is currently unsustainable.

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