Designing greener digital products and services: behind the scenes at Orange

By limiting energy and resource consumption, eco-design can revolutionize traditional innovation. By 2025, all Orange branded products will follow an eco-design approach. Sophie Claude, VP Home Services and Connectivity Innovation Portfolio Director at Orange, explains how.

 

Photo de Sophie Claude

Sophie Claude
Vice President Home services and products
Orange Innovation

 

 

 

What is eco-design?

"Eco-designing a product means considering its environmental impact from the very first stages of its design. The aim is to reduce its footprint throughout its lifecycle, from extracting raw materials to managing its end of life and influencing customer uses. To do this, we measure and try to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, resource depletion, and water consumption, for example.

 

Do digital products have specific requirements?

Sophie Claude: "Yes because digital products and services have both hardware and software implications. We aim to increase the durability, scalability, and repairability of consumer electronics. We also select architecture for software and infrastructure that consumes fewer resources, particularly electricity, and we optimize the software. We’ve created a skills center to capitalize on and develop our technical expertise on these subjects."

 

How does this process work concretely at Orange?

S.C.: "Reducing the environmental footprint of our products and services is one of the strong ambitions within our strategic plan. We have been working on it for about ten years now and current projects are reaping the benefits. In 2021, we defined a Group approach and launched several pilot projects, supported by our eco-design experts. It’s a cross-functional process involving many stakeholders: project management, marketing, design, technical design, development, validation, procurement, and more. We have to raise awareness and train many teams. For us, eco-design drives innovation. Environmental requirements must be seen as opportunities to rethink our innovations to ensure they have a positive impact. It is a complete process that allows us to differentiate from our competitors."

 

Do you have concrete examples of actions you have taken to reduce the environmental footprint of Orange products?

S.C: "We ensure that our equipment can be recycled and reused by customers, while guaranteeing the same quality of service. This means, like cats, they can have multiple lives! We rely on partners with manufacturing capabilities to disassemble and then quickly reassemble the devices we collect from customers. In 2021, more than 5.6 million items were collected (excluding mobiles) in Europe, and 4.7 million items were recycled in around 10 Orange countries. We have to plan this upstream. For devices to be easily dismantled and reassembled, everything has to be considered, from the chips to the exterior shells.

Another important dimension is the material used for the plastic shell and its recyclability, so we collaborate with specific suppliers. This also affects the color of the product. Until now, 100% recycled plastics have not been available in white. That's why our latest ranges of Wi-Fi 6 products (router and extender) were released in black in Spain and Poland, to achieve a maximum rate of recycled plastic. For the future, we are also studying the use of bio-sourced materials. Over the long term, the entire product chain – ourselves included - must be adapted and developed to be more responsible."

Can you give us details on how the latest Livebox 6 was designed?

S.C.: "The plastic materials are 100% recyclable and recycled. The design makes it easier to repair and recycle. And its power consumption has been optimized from start to finish, from the natural ventilation system to the technologies embedded in the electronic components. Our customers benefit from two sleep modes, to save energy when they’re not using it – an important consideration in our current times. Our experts have worked with our partners and suppliers to ensure a responsible product chain, from the launch in France to its roll out in other European countries, with a few slight variations, by pooling advances in technology and methods to reduce environmental impacts as much as possible."

 

Is it really possible to design elegant, innovative, easy-to-use, while limiting the environmental impact?

S.C.: "Yes, and the Livebox 6 is proof of that! It is a ‘designed by Orange’ product which is beautiful and also integrates many choices to limit the environmental footprint . Customers are proud to display it in their homes. Our designers are involved from the earliest stages of product innovation and work hand in hand with our technical and marketing teams on successful and innovative design proposals, which also meet our energy and environmental efficiency standards."

 

How do you collaborate with other operators and manufacturers in terms of eco-design?

S.C.: "We work with suppliers so that they integrate our innovations into their production chains. We’re in constant contact with our industrial partners from the choice of materials and components to product reconditioning and recycling. We’re also starting to collaborate with operators and there is a real awareness of the issues, particularly in Europe. The more of us on board going forward, the faster suppliers will make the necessary efforts to be more responsible and offer us more eco-friendly production chains and solutions."

 

Orange products and services have started integrating an eco-design approach, and through its Solidarity FabLabs, the Orange Foundation also integrates eco-design into its training courses for digital professions.