Human Effort

144: Fairphone


Conflict minerals, including the metals cassiterite, columbite-tantalite and wolframite are natural resources extracted in a conflict zone and sold to directly or indirectly benefit armed groups perpetuate the fighting in countries such as the Congo.


The Fairphone

Fairphone was founded in January 2013 beside the River Ij in Amsterdam by Bas van Abel, Tessa Wernink and Miquel Ballester as a social enterprise company, having existed as an anti-conflict minerals campaign for two and a half years.

The company’s website states that its mission is to “bring a fair smartphone to the market โ€“ one designed and produced with minimal harm to people and planet”.

To achieve this, Fairphone sourced conflict-free tin and tantalum from mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo and worked closely with its manufacturers to improve working conditions in its factories.

It was supported in its startup phase by the Waag Society, a foundation which aims to foster experimentation with new technologies, art and culture.

The second version of the company’s device is one of the first modular smartphones available for purchase, focussing on durability, reparability and the availability of spare parts that can be easily replaced to extend the smartphone’s usable life. Building a phone that lasts longer reduces the overall toll on people and the environment.

Although Fairphone’s co-founder and first CEO Bas van Abel was one of the three winners of the German Environmental Award in 2016, he acknowledged in 2017 that it was currently impossible to produce a 100% fair phone, suggesting it was more accurate to call his company’s phones “fairer”.

In 2020, the large-team operator Vodafone and Fairphone announced a strategic partnership to bring ethical Fairphone 3 Smartphone , made with 40% recycled plastics to Vodafone’s European customers. By this time there were over 100,000 Fairphone owners

In 2019 van Abel co-founded the circular start-up De Clique, a logistical service, physical hub and marketing platform to help transform wasted resources from his Utrecht into new products again.

What you can do: Buy and use a Fairphone.

Discover Solution 145: Recycling false teeth

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