Flying start for a fair phone

Who wouldn’t like to help to make the world a better place without having to cut down on luxury? At least 25,000 people were so taken by the idea that they even paid for their Fairphone before it was taken into production.

5,000 orders were needed for the factory to start up production, but there turned out to be no less than five times as many enthusiastic supporters. ‘There is apparently an enormous demand for innovation in the process’, says Fairphone’s Roos van de Weerd. This brand-new Amsterdam company claims that from beginning to end the life cycle of a mobile telephone can be made fairer and more sustainable and it decided follow a different course from the rest.

The idea of making consumers more aware of the often less attractive story behind their electronics originated in the Waag Society. The designer and technical wizard Bas van Abel en - capsulated that idea in a smartphone that is better for people and the environment. The required components are collected assembled, and, if possible, recycled again under the fairest possible conditions. Van de Weerd: ‘The project is about reorganising systems that have got stuck in a rut. It can’t be done in one go. Buyers invest in a process leading to a fairer phone. We can now guarantee, for example, that the tin and tantalum come from Congolese mines that have no connection with the armed militias. The next step is the gold. And in China we have found a factory that it amendable to improving the working conditions’.

The plastic case is recycled and the Fairphone can even be repaired thanks to the use of components that can be dismantled. ‘We have to leave those hermetically sealed black boxes behind’, says Van de Weerd. ‘That is design for the dump. It costs no more to make something that is more sustainable and social. And we invest the profit in the next step; the Fairphone gets fairer and fairer’.

Update (22 June 2015)
After 50.000 first edition Fairphones have been sold, Fairphone now has presented the Fairphone 2. This second edition is designed to last even longer that the first one, thanks to a modular architecture for easy dis- and reassembly and an integrated protective case.