Sustainability is not just a trendy topic that tech executives casually mention, but a core value deeply embedded in the ethos of Fairphone, a small Dutch company. Unlike more giant corporations such as Apple and Samsung, who seem indifferent or incapable of prioritizing fairness to consumers, workers, and the environment, Fairphone walks the talk.
Fairphone extraordinary sustainability stands out for creating smartphones designed to endure for five years or more, utilizing sustainable materials and fair practices in their production. It’s not uncommon for consumers to have first heard of Fairphone when the company does something extraordinary and groundbreaking, such as providing software and security updates for phones sold in 2019, long after other companies have abandoned support for their components. Remarkably, Fairphone’s commitment to sustainability doesn’t end there, as they continue to provide support for the 2019 phone until 2026. This dedication to sustainability is commendable and sets Fairphone apart as a true leader in the industry.
Fairphone, while not flawless, sets an admirable example in the realm of sustainability. Unlike companies like Apple and Google that use recycled aluminum in their smartphones, Fairphone opts for ethically mined and smelted aluminum in its Fairphone 4. The company is transparent about its limitations but offsets them by physically recycling one smartphone for every phone it sells.
Fairness to workers is a key aspect of sustainability, and Fairphone ensures that its workers receive a living wage. In 2020, workers in China received an additional four months’ salary as a yearly bonus to ensure fair compensation. Fairphone also sources fair-trade materials, paying a premium for materials like gold and tungsten from Rwanda to avoid supporting poor working conditions elsewhere. While Fairphone may not have the resources to use 100% recycled materials, it ensures its supply chain for mined materials is conflict-free and workers are fairly compensated.
Being fair to consumers is also vital to sustainability. While companies like Samsung may use recycled materials in their phones, repairing them can be extremely challenging, leading to e-waste. Fairphone, on the other hand, designs its phones to be easily repairable, providing tools, readily available and affordable parts, and even disassembly hints and diagrams. With a full five-year warranty and a commitment to customer satisfaction, Fairphone encourages long-term use of its phones.
MKBHD perfectly covers all these advantages of sustainable phones in this video:
It’s worth asking why larger companies like Apple and Samsung can’t follow Fairphone’s example. While the scale and shareholder pressure may pose challenges, it ultimately comes down to priorities. Fairphone is willing to invest in sustainability, even if it means sacrificing potential profit. Apple and Samsung, on the other hand, prioritize profit over sustainability and consumer empowerment. With public pressure and a genuine desire for change, it’s possible for larger companies to embrace sustainability like Fairphone, but it requires a shift in mindset and priorities.