Dutch company Fairphone have come up with a novel and noble idea….to sell a smartphone to socially and environmentally conscious consumers. The idea is simple, and is based on the same core fundamentals as Fairtrade food products available to consumers in the West, such as fairtrade coffee and cocoa products – whereby the people growing and harvesting the products are paid a fair price, and are not exploited by the large multinationals who are solely interested in making a profit and satisfying their shareholders, rather than the farmers.
Fairphone started out initially in 2010 as an awareness project about conflict minerals in electronics and the devastating wars that the sourcing of these minerals is fuelling in the DR Congo. In Fairphone’s case, they have sourced the minerals and metals used in the manufacture of the phones from a conflict-free sources, highlighting in the process the plight of peoples in the likes of the D.R. Congo.
The metals being fought over, such as tin and cobalt, are used across the high-tech manufacturing industry in smartphones and laptops, to name but two. And they continue to try and source fairtrade gold and tungsten from countries such as Rwanda.
But it’s not just about the metals. It’s also about the manufacturing process, and what happens when your phone is considered obsolete. Press coverage of Apple’s supplier, Foxxconn, and their employees poor working conditions and high suicide rates, have highlighted to tech consumers everywhere, including the Apple Fanboy hipsters, that although their phone might be cool, it’s mere creation has caused suffering and misery to those who made it. Fairphone have set about to find a manufacturer who values their employees. Their end goal is to have “transparent, long-term relationships with suppliers to ensure good working conditions and safe recycling practices”.
They’ve now begun taking orders for an initial batch of 20,000 smartphones, running Google’s Android OS, which are available to consumers in Europe for €325 each. Looking at the specs, it’s punching power is the equivalent of, say, an iPhone 4S or a Samsung Galaxy S3. When you think about it, for a small start-up, doing something good and morally positive, this is a HUGE achievement.
If you want to be a part of this story also, then go to their website here and place your pre-order for one of the first 20,000 TRULY cool phones. I’ve already placed mine!