The Dutch nonprofit company FairPhone has just made a significant step in making ethical electronics a reality, meeting its goal of 5,000 pre-orders for a new smartphone made with conflict-free tin and tantalum - two of the most essential ingredients for making smartphone components.
FairPhone has built healthy relationships all the way down the supply chain, in order to source fairtrade minerals and ensure phones are built under acceptable working conditions.
The smartphone industry generates tens of billions of dollars every year, we change our phones more and more often, but pay little attention to how the phone came into our hands...
The unfortunate truth is that manufacturing electronics often involves worker exploitation at almost every step of the way: from mining the minerals in Africa to assembling the products in China, workers are often underpaid and work in highly hazardous conditions, with local companies ready to break environmental regulations in order to make a quick buck.
FairPhone is part of a mission to raise awareness and hold the electronics industry to a higher ethical standard, doing things like making devices repairable and sourcing materials from artisanal mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo that are not controlled by violent militias.
Specifications: The FairPhone has dual-SIM capability for GSM networks, and will run a close-to-stock version of Android 4.2 Jelly Bean by default, though owners will have the option to easily swap for any other OS. It also has a 4.3-inch screen, 8 megapixel camera, 16GB internal storage, and a removable battery. The company says the phone is designed to be "radically" repairable, and even included a "special message" for early adopters hidden inside the first run models to encourage disassembly.
Pre-orders are still open at €350 (about $458) and €3 of each phone will be donated to Closing The Loop, a UK-based electronics recycling initiative. Phones will begin shipping to customers within Europe in October. The phones are now slated to begin shipping by the end of the year.
Hopefully the FairPhone will inspire the rest of the electronics industry.
Fairphone founder Bas van Abel