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Sustainable electronics company Fairphone is changing the world of smartphones for good

In partnership with Fairphone

Fairphone is literally changing the consumer electronics industry for GOOD. They make great long-lasting, modular, easy-to-self-repair phones, pay their factory workers in China a living wage, are e-waste neutral, and work hard to improve sustainability practices in the supply chain.
SUSTAINABLE ELECTRONICS COMPANY FAIRPHONE IS CHANGING THE WORLD OF SMARTPHONES FOR GOOD

Fairphone is the world’s first phone company that’s fair to people and the planet. They produce sustainable, modular, easy-to-self-repair smartphones that they want you to use as long as possible.

Fairphone challenges the entire electronics industry

The Dutch electronics company Fairphone is not just another smartphone company. They are in the industry to change it. For good. They are the first company that breaks the cycle of wanting you to buy a new smartphone every one or two years. They actually want you to keep your phone as long as possible. Fairphone is fully dedicated to fair(er) materials and fair wages. Everything they do, they do in a scalable manner to inspire the biggest smartphone producers. You could say they are actually the first phone company that wants its competitors to copy them. And Fairphone is profitable too. So… if a relatively small company like Fairphone can do all this, so can the big players.

At BrightVibes we interviewed some of the key people at Fairphone, starting with Bas van Abel, founder and former CEO at Fairphone.

Born out of idealism

Fairphone is the first phone company that was born out of idealism.

Back in 2011, Fairphone was not founded with the objective to produce (fair) phones but to raise awareness of the detrimental effects the consumer electronics industry has on people and our planet.

Bas was asked by friends to help set up a campaign around conflict minerals, which he didn’t know anything about. They made a documentary and combined this with a crowdfunding campaign which turned out to be a huge success. Within three months they had raised over €7 million and that’s when they decided to start the production of the first Fairphone, a phone that serves as an example for the consumer electronics industry in general and for the smartphone industry in particular. An industry that produces 1.4 billion smartphones each year at a very high price, both to our planet as to many people who work in this sector. Check out this video about the hidden impact of the smartphone industry.

 

Bas van Abel, co-founder and board member at Fairphone Source: BrightVibes

First Fairphone, followed by Tesla.

Most people may not give it much thought, but a smartphone is made with about 50 different materials that need to be sourced and processed. Fairphone has chosen to focus on 14 materials where they believe they can contribute most to positive change.

CEO Eva Gouwens told BrightVibes:

“If you’re responsible for bringing a product to the market and you really take that responsibility seriously and want to take people and planet into account, then you should start at the source. What are the materials? A good example I think is Fair Trade Gold.

Fairphone is the first phone company that has integrated Fair Trade gold in its devices. Another example of materials is cobalt, which is mainly used in batteries of our electronics devices.

Eva Gouwens: 

“We as Fairphone founded the Fair Cobalt Alliance, which is literally a coalition where we ask other players to join in on the work that we do on the ground with cobalt mine sites. Tesla also joined the Fair Cobalt Alliance. And then suddenly the effect for miners is way bigger.”

As the initiator of the Fair Cobalt Alliance, Fairphone proves how a relatively small social enterprise can actually have a big impact on a complete industry.

 

Eva Gouwens, CEO at Fairphone Source: BrightVibes

First phone that is built to last

Most phone companies want you to buy a new phone as often as possible. We are bombarded with ads and offers to persuade us our current phone is in desperate need of replacement. Whilst in fact the innovation in really useful features has more or less plateaued and our phones still work (or at least still could work) decently.

Fairphone on the other hand urges you to postpone buying a new phone as long as possible. Of course, they do want you to buy a Fairphone when the time is right. But once you have one, they really want their phone to last as long as possible.

As co-founder and Head of Product Miquel Ballester Salvà explains:

“The ultimate goal is that we increase the number of years that devices are being used because that’s the easiest way to lower the CO2 emissions that are related to the production of those phones. If we use our phones, double the time we need to produce half of the phones. It’s that simple.”

And first results show that Fairphone is delivering on its promise; where the industry standard is that only 40% of phones of 2.6 years or more are still in use, with Fairphone’s model 3 users this percentage is over 80%.

Head of Product

Miquel Ballester Salvà Head of Product Source: BrightVibes

If only Apple made phones like this

With its latest model, Fairphone 4, the company gives a standard guarantee of 5 years. Plus, you can order many different spare parts online that anybody can easily replace, simply by using a screwdriver. You can easily replace the screen, the usb-c port, the camera etc. Oh, and if your battery no longer works, you don’t even need a screwdriver. You simply open the cover (made from 100% recycled plastic) and place a new battery.

“One of the things that I’m really proud of when it comes to Repairability is that we were the first organization to achieve a 10 out of 10 in the Ifixit score. It’s a little bit like building a piece of furniture yourself. It’s a very fulfilling activity.” says Miquel Ballester Salvà.

In case you want to compare how easy it is to fix your Fairphone to how incredibly complex (and costly) this is with Apple, this is what an editor of The Verge wrote about Apple’s ‘self-repair’ service: “I’m starting to think Apple doesn’t want us to repair them…”

This is not only good for people and the planet, but also for your pocket. 

“In the end, that’s also good for the pocket. People need to spend less money on repair services and they can have their phone back in working condition faster.” Miquel Ballester Salvà told BrightVibes.

In case something needs to be replaced, you can simply order a new screen or USB-c port and replace it yourself. All you need is to follow their simple instructions and a screwdriver. And not unimportant; in our experience, the Fairphone 4 is a great phone. The screen is good, it runs on Android 11 and it will meet the demand of most smartphone users. And it is great to have a battery that you can change. At BrightVibes we bought a spare battery and it saves us carrying a power bank.

Easy to repair In case something needs to be replaced, you can simply order a new screen or USB-c port and replace it yourself. All you need is to follow their simple instructions and a screwdriver. And not unimportant; in our experience, the Fairphone 4 is a great phone. The screen is good, it runs on Android 11 and it will meet the demand of most smartphone users. And it is great to have a battery that you can change. At BrightVibes we bought a spare battery and it saves us carrying a power bank. Source: Fairphone

Living wage for factory workers

Finally, Fairphone is the first phone company that pays a living wage to its factory workers in China. China does have a minimum wage, but like in many other countries this does not equal a living wage, explains CEO Eva Gouwens:

“A living wage is an income that in the area where you live should provide you for a decent life. So it allows you to send your kids to school and to save a bit for when you’re old and to just buy food and proper housing for providing a living wage to the workers that assemble our devices. We need to pay $2 extra per device. It’s less than a cup of coffee.”

To inspire other manufacturers to follow Fairphone’s lead, they make all data available publicly in a white paper and challenge others to do the same. As their CEO told us:

“Every phone company can and should do this. If you can’t charge an extra $2 per phone, you must be a really bad marketer.”

Make an Impact

Change is in your hands

Fairphone has proven to have made a big impact already, despite being a relatively small player. Now, if you really need a new phone and you too want a great phone that lasts and that contributes positively to the lives of so many people and our planet, check them out.

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