Focus: Information Technology
Location: Amsterdam, The Netherlands
There are currently 4 billion smartphones in operation all over the world. We keep our smartphones with us all the time and check them throughout the day, but do you know how your smartphone was made? All smartphones contain small amounts of metals like gold, tantalum and tin, the production of which is environmentally damaging. Many of these metals are also sourced from mines in conflict zones in Africa, so the revenue from these metals is often fueling continued violence. In addition, it is estimated that only 7% of these phones are properly disposed of at the end of their lives, leading to environmentally damaging e-waste. How could smartphones be made more environmentally and socially responsible?
The answer lies with Fairphone, the company working to produce the world’s first ethical smartphone. Fairphone works with mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo to source its tin and tantalum in a more responsible way. They also work with a factory in China to improve worker’s conditions and wages, even setting aside a portion of their profits for a worker welfare fund. In addition, the Fairphone is designed to be easily reparable, extending its usable life. The company also has a recycling program to ensure old smartphones are given a new life or safely disposed of. Many developing countries don’t have the infrastructure needed to manage the electronic waste (e-waste) from smartphones that is beginning to contaminate their environments. To address this problem, Fairphone has launched an e-waste program in Ghana to educate people about the environmental cost of e-waste and provide a mechanism for its collection and disposal.
Fairphone isn’t perfect, and doesn’t claim to be, but they are transparent about their operations and are constantly searching for ways to improve. There are many challenges to overcome to create a product that respects the environment and people throughout its life cycle, and not all of them can be addressed at once. Part of Fairphone’s mission in this process is to open up discussions with consumers around these challenges and what fairness means. You can read more about their efforts to create a truly responsible smartphone on their website and blog. Would you buy a Fairphone?
Environmental impact: Reduced landfills, avoided soil contamination, sustainable mining
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