Smartphones are an integral part of our everyday lives, but most of us have no idea where, how, or what these devices are produced from. In an economic system that cares for little except for itself, Fairphone seeks to change this system from within.
LEAD BY EXAMPLE
By introducing a new, fairly produced and sustainably sourced smartphone, Fairphone hopes to inspire others to do the same. Speaking at WDCD Live in 2013, Fairphone founder Bas Van Abel spoke of the enterprise’s catalyst: “To me, design is about systemic change…the entire chain of production in products such as smartphones are seriously damaging and problematic. We want to become part of that economic system, to be able to change it”. By introducing Fairphone to the industry, the example of creating a positive impact across the value chain opens the market for products that put ethical values first.
TECHNOLOGY’S DIRTY SECRET
Since founding in 2013 Fairphone have released 2 previous phones. This week, they announce the release of the latest model; Fairphone 3. There are many features that make Fairphone unique, and this stems from a desire to change the current way we manufacture and use our phones. As consumers, we’re not aware of the often life threatening, exploitative and damaging factors that communities involved in phone manufacturing face every day. For example; coltan mining in Congo – a mineral used in common mobile phones, is responsible for the hundreds of thousands of deaths relating to its production each year, alongside basic human rights violations such as child labor. Every step of the supply chain is problematic, from working conditions, to below-minimum pay, to ecological and social damage from waste and byproducts. By working directly with the production partners to improve supply chains – ensuring fair pay and working conditions, alongside setting up new initiatives such as better sourcing of cobalt, Fairphone aim to motivate the market to act more responsibly.
IF IT AIN’T BROKE
One unique Fairphone feature includes the ability to fix and replace individual modular elements of the phone such as the camera, speaker and display. The modular design is important in two ways: first by providing access and materials for users to easily fix their phone, saving money and empowering self sufficiency. Second, by reducing waste: Approximately 350,000 mobile phones are disposed of each day, according to 2010 figures from the EPA. That equates to more than 152 million phones thrown away in one year. This huge figure of waste is partly due to manufacturers making their products inaccessible; consumers are encouraged to just buy the next model and throw away the last, rather than fix it themselves. In addition to waste reduction, Fairphone 3 supports collection programs in countries like Ghana, and will reward buyers for using Fairphone’s recycle program to return their previous phones.
DOES GOOD, IS GOOD
Sustainably sourced materials such as fairtrade gold, conflict-free tin and tungsten, and recycled copper and plastics make the body of the phone. Keeping the Fairphone 3 longer while maintaining it, can save 30% of CO2 emissions or more. This, along with great features including 64gb space, android 9 operating systems, and full-day battery life make the Fairphone 3 both ethically and functionally attractive, while maintaining a groundwork for other companies to follow suite.
“By establishing a market for ethical products, we want to motivate the entire industry to act more responsibly since we cannot achieve this change alone”
A PHONE FOR THE FUTURE
Fairphone CEO Eva Gouwens sums up the company’s goals for the Fairphone 3, commenting:
“We envision an economy where consideration for people and the planet is a natural part of doing business and according to this vision, we have created scalable ways to improve our supply chain and product. We developed the Fairphone 3 to be a real sustainable alternative on the market, which is a big step towards lasting change. By establishing a market for ethical products, we want to motivate the entire industry to act more responsibly since we cannot achieve this change alone.”
Interested in joining the Fairphone community, or want to learn more about the fair specs and fair supply chain? Check our their website for further details. Change is calling!