“What would you take to a desert island?” A while ago, we might not even have to go back more than a decade, the answer to this question would’ve been as different as it can be standardized right now: a smartphone.
It is a key element in our daily lives, yet the smartphone’s life cycle is going against many sustainability principles: the phones are made with minerals extracted in conflict zones and in most of the cases, they are assembled in a way that it is hard to replace its components and thus they have a very short lifespan: on average a smartphone starts to become obsolete and defunct after just 1 - 2 years.
With the idea of doing something to raise awareness about conflict minerals, the dutch enterprise Fairphone has created a smartphone following one simple principle: to change systems. “Three years ago we started a crowdfunding campaign to check if people really wanted a Fairphone, and we found that our society really does want a phone produced on social and environmental values”, explained Daria Koreniushkina, Public Engagement Manager at Fairphone during an event in Berlin this November. “Right now there are about 60.000 proud owners of a Fairphone, half of them in Germany”, she added.
About to release the Fairphone 2 in December, although it can already be ordered on their website, Fairphone explains that one of its main goals was to give the phone a true value, to have a tangible positive impact. “We are trying to handle the fairest possible phone although with some components we only have the possibility to choose the less bad - we try to work with local NGOs that know more than we do”, stated Miquel Ballester, Product Strategy at Fairphone.
The new Fairphone incorporates and expands upon the initiatives that were started with the first Fairphone, including sourcing conflict-free tin and tantalum from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, investing in a second worker-controlled welfare fund with its new production partner in China and improving the e-waste recycling program it started in Ghana.
Fairphone 2 is using a modular design not only to make it easy for the user to fix it and to replace any of its components (which can be bought at the Fairphone website) but also to allow its owner to know perfectly how the phone works and, so to say, to endow transparency. Following that purpose, it is running with open source software and the customer can find all the information about the phone's roadmap, for example its life cycle assessment, at the Fairphone website.
“We have created a unique product in terms of hardware and software but we are selling an idea according to our principles and values. We are selling a phone made with high quality materials that allow you to keep it as long as possible. However, we expect that its lifespan will not be more than 5 years. Not due to its hardware but because we are dealing with technology that is changing really fast so we do not know what technological advances we are going to have in a few years time. But, in case the user needs to exchange it, there is at least the option to recycle.” explains Miquel.
So, if you really need a new smartphone and you care about how it’s been produced and assembled, and one of your concerns is the social value of it, a Fairphone 2 would be the perfect choice. And due to its long lifespan the best one to take to a desert island, for sure!