Sonos seems genuinely committed to the sustainable production and distribution of their speakers. While they do have some shortcomings such as a lack of supplier oversight, they are at least willing to admit their need for improvement in these areas. What’s most impressive is the high quality sustainable materials used in the speakers, resulting in long product lifespans when compared to the rest of the industry. Perhaps that is a low bar, but it is still worthy of praise.
While Sonos’ offices are all located in the United States, their supplier factories are all overseas. In terms of what raw materials are used, Sonos does not provide much information. A deconstruction of the Sonos One reveals polycarbonate as a primary material. As far as plastics go, polycarbonate is considered one of the most sustainable. The main body also consists largely of glass fiber, which is another highly sustainable solution. What Sonos does provide is an extensive “Supplier Code of Conduct” in which they lay out some ground rules for their suppliers, including living wages for workers. Unfortunately, Sonos only managed to audit 40% of their supplier factories in 2020, falling short of their goal of 90% auditing. They may deserve a pass for this year because the pandemic has made it difficult to keep track of everything, but this is still something to keep an eye on. With that being said, they do have plenty of information on their operations in the United States. They claim to have achieved carbon neutral operations in their offices for the 3rd straight year. They also claim that 92% of the paper in their product packaging is sustainably sourced, a 13% increase from 2018. Even with these positives, Sonos’ lack of current oversight over their suppliers prevents them from getting a perfect score.
Sonos speakers are designed to last for 5-10 years before eventually wearing out. Sonos also estimates that 92% of all devices sold in their 16 year old history are still in use. This is in contrast with other major tech companies such as Apple, whose products are generally designed to last for a year or two before becoming dysfunctional. This is a sign that they are actually dedicated to lessening their environmental impact and delivering a quality product. They do not seem willing to cut corners in order to make extra profit. In 2019, Sonos came under fire because they gave customers the option to “recycle” old speakers, rendering them completely useless in order to get a discount on a better speaker. This was completely unsustainable and they have since changed their policy, allowing customers to choose what to do with their old device after trading up for a new one. Customers now have full control over what happens to these old devices.
Although Sonos’ CEO Patrick Spence claims that Sonos has a diversified supply chain, their suppliers are entirely located in China. Apart from that, there is little information to be found on he actual manufacturers of Sonos’ Speakers. If they are able to learn from their shortcomings in 2020 and fully audit their suppliers in the coming year, this lack of information should not be an issue. In the United States, 30% of employees are women, an improvement from 3% at the beginning of 2020. Also, 32% of their employees in 2020 were ethnically diverse and 40% of new hires were from underrepresented ethnic groups. Sonos seems committed to transparency in their representation, and they are using “bias detection tools” in their hiring process.