IT’S sleek, smart, and seriously good for your conscience.
Meet the new Fairphone — a smart device that bills itself not just as a phone, but as a “movement” towards a more ethical type of electronics.
The Amsterdam-based company has sold more than 80,000 phones so far with the latest generation being sent to customers across Europe in time for Christmas. While it’s not perfect, Fairphone’s head of public engagement Daria Koreniushkina said it’s the start of a process where they’re aiming to create a supply chain that rivals ethical movements in food and clothing.
“What we’re doing is working to build a movement for fair electronics and to address social and environmental issues across the whole value chain of electronics. Starting from the mines and materials used in the phone, all the way to the design and manufacturing to end of life so electronic waste,” she told news.com.au
“In other industries such as food and apparel there has been more awareness and more options to buy responsibly sourced products or products with transparent supply chains but in the electronics industry this has just started to happen more recently. I think mainly because of the complexity of the supply chain of electronic products.”
The idea began as a campaign in 2010 to highlight the fact the 40 minerals used in smartphones — from gold to tin and tungsten — are often sourced from regions fraught with conflict and a lack of governance and travel through a murky supply chain that the end consumer knows little about.
The strong response to the campaign made them realise it’s not just about “bad guys and good guys” so the team, wanted to take on the supply chain themselves and start to improve it step by step.
Since 2013 they have sold more than 80,000 of the phones and are now onto their second generation design, giving them more control over the template and suppliers. While she’s quick to point out it’s a work in progress the team can already guarantee two minerals in the phone are conflict-free and they’ve worked with manufacturers in China to improve conditions, as well as recyclers in Ghana to reduce electronic waste.
Spare parts and extra battery life are a crucial part of the design to ensure longevity, with “modular architecture” meaning no trips to a Genius Bar are necessary when it comes to replacing a cracked screen.
“So far when talking about a new product in electronics, design and technology are maybe the most important conversation points but that’s what we’re working towards changing,” Ms Koreniushkina said.
“We do a lot of work of actually telling the story of how phones are made and how we are trying to tackle different issues in the electronics industry.”
Their work has nabbed the eye of UN officials who hailed the product as one of 16Momentum for Change award-winners, focusing on products that could change the way we live at the Paris COP 21 Summit.
Other winners include Lifelink Water Solutions, which uses renewable energy to provide access to safe drinking water for people in rural Kenya and Uganda.
ChargePoint, a company that provides express charging for electric vehicles, and Mobisol, a company that brings renewable energy to homes in Rwanda and Tanzania, were also singled out by UN leaders.