Pragmatism, not idealism

David Jones is a man on a mission. He wants you to think green, and his new installation company ecoav is there to help. Chris Fitzsimmons went to find out more.

”Step in to my office!” laughs David Jones as I walk into one of the meeting rooms at AMX’s central London site. He’s there to meet the company and discuss his new project – ecoav. The former head of Mitsubishi Display Engineering in the UK is in relaxed mood, and eager to talk about the new venture, an installation firm with a difference.

“When we began to get the LED powered rear-projection cubes through, which were being badged as eco products by us, and other manufacturers, I looked at the products, and the eco-credentials that we were claiming with expressions like ‘the new green cube’ and ‘no more bulb replacement’. I did the sums, and they didn’t stack up.

“I thought, hang on a second, something is wrong here, and started to look further afield at the eco credentials of other products and do more with assessing the eco market in general, within the AV scope.

“I couldn’t really find anything that made any sense. There are websites. Mitsubishi itself has a great eco-website, but if you were to phone up and ask about the eco aspects of the products then there would be silence at the end of the line, as nobody actually knows who to talk to.

“This started to be an issue for me – I thought it should be easy. I was getting tenders through for projects where the weighting towards eco, or green credentials was increasing. It used to be that there was a five per cent weighting towards
your green credentials, then it was 10 and 15 per cent.”

This surely poses a question about how these credentials are measured at the moment?

“Well there are ISOs and other standards for green activities. There are your environmental policies and sustainability policies. These are all out there, and manufacturers all have them, and there are WEEE And RoHS certificates. But there isn’t actually anyone to talk to about them. What it really is, is paying lip service to the green movement, which we’ve all done, and we’re all still doing it.

“I started to push towards thinking that someone should be taking the lead in this, and doing something about it. Actually providing a service where we’ll do the leg work, and we’ll get the information from the manufacturers and so we’ll be able to go back to end users and actually give them a real green solution. Not just something you’ve got from a company with a good website.”

So are ecoav setting themselves up as a consultancy?

“No we’re an integrator, very much so. What we’re doing is giving people the option of a solution where the green side of it has been properly thought through and responsibly done. So, if you want a solution where you’re paying more than lip service to environmental concerns then ecoav will be able to provide you with that. We’ll give you a proper solution that works sensibly and simply. In doing that we’ll give you the option to have products that are helping the green process.

“So we’ll check that they have the best possible power consumption, and the company you are buying them from has good environmental policies, and the packaging is sensible – all aspects of it.

“What you’ll get with an ecoav installation is similar, in a way, to a risk assessment. We will be providing, with each project, an eco risk assessment. Each product will be identified in terms of where its come from, and why we’ve used it. In effect it will have an eco-stamp from ecoav, a rating. We feel the client has to have some sort of benchmark to work from.

“We’re not setting ourselves up as the eco-police, we’re just trying to give clients a way to make informed decisions relating to green issues. With screens for instance, if you take a big plasma screen, they run at 300-400 Watts. You can use an LED backlit screen and it’s 90 Watts. Also, there’s a lot less material involved, it’s a lot lighter, the packaging is a lot less and it’s easier to handle. Environmentally it is all a lot better.

“Of course there are a whole slew of systems that work behind that screen. We need to fully populate the rack. Some products in that rack you won’t be able to find a green alternative for, but we could look at solid-state or hard drive storage for example, to reduce power consumption. Also they are generally more reliable so they require less maintenance visits. It all adds up.

“You can get to a point where it gets ridiculous – where the effort you are putting in outweighs the benefit. Finding that line is quite difficult, but the process is quite straight forward. Keep it simple, and give the client a fully functional system that matches, or hopefully exceeds their expectations, and does it from a green standpoint.”

On the subject of effort, it’s clear that ecoav have a lot of homework to be getting on with, in terms of sourcing information. I wondered how forthcoming the manufacturers had been?

“The main manufacturers are very keen to work with you and give you help with their products. For instance, a company like NEC is one of the really big players in terms of display solutions.

“A lot of thought has been put into its products – the packaging, the power management, the design. The issue is that it doesn’t have enough people with the right knowledge to make a big noise about it.”

NEC of course recently announced its compliance under the TCO scheme, I asked David what he thought of this kind of certification scheme.
“I’m all in favour of the certifications and the standards because there is no other benchmark. What we’re trying to do is dig behind the logo and just set our own minds at rest that the credibility of the product matches the eco logo on it.”

There are limits to David’s green tendencies though. He is at pains the point out that he is definitely not an environmentalist. I ask him about ecoav’s own green credentials.

“Sadly, my Toyota Prius isn’t on order,” he jokes. “The reality is that although I’ll pay a bit more for green electricity, I won’t pay 30% more. I use an energy monitor at home, and I try to keep it down as much as possible. I like to recycle. Companies should be looking to do the same.”

It’s definitely a pragmatic approach to green issues, not a dogmatic one. And it is the kind of approach that he expects ecoav’s potential customers will be taking too.

“We’ll look to specify energy monitoring solutions into our systems, and that’s partly what’s brought us here to AMX.

“When we install screens I’d like to place an energy monitor on them because part of the process of energy management is engaging people. If you don’t engage your staff with energy management then you can spend thousands and thousands of pounds on clever equipment, but if someone doesn’t press the button when they leave, it’s all wasted.”

I finished off by asking David what his sense of how willing customers are to hear his message? What’s the magic number in terms of how much more cost companies are willing to consider to deliver the green benefits he is selling.

“The figure for any benefit compared to cost is the same for green credentials or anything else. It’s a matter of how much people will pay for a better product. I’ve always said it’s about 15 per cent. If you go over that, it starts to become unacceptable.

“However, the thing with green projects is that you are making savings. You are necessarily using less power, and there are other aspects that are good for your company. You are engaging in activities that ultimately you are going to be regulated on. You are also giving your staff a feeling of involvement. People like to be green. The vast majority of people, given a real choice, will take green decisions.”

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