Smartphone made with ethically sourced materials
Many people should wish they could fix a cracked smartphone screen by themselves, with or without having experienced it. Fairphone, a start-up company in the Netherlands, made it possible. The company sells smartphones made with sustainable and ethically sourced materials, rather than the high functionality required by only a few users.
Fairphone products have a modular design by which the number of parts can be minimized, which makes it easy for common users without specialized knowledge to repair. Just like treating a plastic model, not a precision equipment, the screen can just be replaced if it is cracked. Of course, with purchasing parts from the official HP, you can fix not only screens but also batteries and headphone jacks in a few minutes.
It is estimated that 12 million tons of electronic waste will be generated in Europe alone in 2020. Although the smartphone use on the industry average is two years, it is expected that the reparability and parts replaceability extend its potential lifespan and lead to reduce waste. Using one device for a long time has another advantage. As the period of use gets longer, the amount of precious metals and rare earths needed for product manufacturing naturally decreases. Rare earth still has problems with disposal, such as the generation of harmful waste during refining and recycling.
Fairphone aims to promote social and environmental sustainability. In addition to reducing the amount of waste, the company’s mission is to clarify where rare minerals are produced and to protect human rights and worker well-being in developing countries. For example, minerals such as tin and tantalum in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, have been a source of conflict in the country since anti-government organizations use them as a source of funding and kill civilians. By using minerals that are not related to these conflicts, it is trying to promote the sustainability of the whole society.
Fairphone representative Lora Haspels admitted that “our products are not 100% fair and probably never will be.” However, Fairphone is also showing that it is possible to make a fairer smartphone through conscientious product design and close scrutiny of sourcing and factory practices.
Linda Kleemann, who researches on the impact of digital technologies on developing countries, is a Fairphone2 user. She says, “I value a lot that it’s repairable and lasts long.” According to Linda, Fairphone has been well-received in Germany, at least by people in her environment. She also says, “Before the emergence of social enterprises like Fairphone, the smartphone industry did not see sustainability as relevant to their goals.” It’s no exaggeration to say that the smartphone that is ethical while having a general function is an innovative idea that causes a stir in society.