Fairphone begins sourcing Fairtrade gold
Announcement marks breakthrough in electronics industry
Fairphone have successfully established the first supply chain for Fairtrade certified gold for the electronics industry.
This means that Fairphone is now the world’s first Fairtrade-licensed consumer electronics manufacturer to support responsible gold mining in Peru with the production of the Fairphone 2.
Fairphone 2, photo credit: Fairphone
Sourcing more responsible minerals
Fairphone sources the Fairtrade certified gold from MINERA SOTRAMI S.A. (Sociedad de Trabajadores Mineros S.A.), Peru, with assistance from Max Havelaar. MINERA SOTRAMI is a small-scale mining enterprise with 164 shareholders and employs 260 mineworkers as well as five engineers who manage the mine and processing plant.
The gold mined here meets the Fairtrade Standard for Gold and Precious Metals, meaning that rigorous social, economic and environmental regulations are followed including child protection policies. In addition, the miners are guaranteed a Fairtrade Minimum Price and Premium that assists in sustainable development for the community. This way, the mine supports 500 families.
From Peru, the gold travels to Valcambi, a major refinery in Switzerland which is licensed to process Fairtrade gold. After refining, Fairphone purchases a small amount of the Fairtrade certified gold which is then shipped to Hong Kong, and transported to Zhaojin Kanfort’s gold salt processing facility in China to create gold salt used by AT&S to electroplate the printed circuit board (PCBs) used in Fairphones.
On 25 January 2016, the first certified batch of gold arrived safely in Hong Kong. There it was added to the gold salt production process where it was mixed with gold from other sources (referred to as a mass-balance system). Although this means the gold is not traceable to the specific batch of gold salt for AT&S, it is the first time Fairtrade certified gold can be physically traced to China to produce gold salt in a way that directly supports MINERA SOTRAMI in Peru.
In a statement Bibi Bleekemolen of Fairphone said:
"Fairphone is understandably proud of this achievement, and is very pleased to be able to connect Fairtrade certified gold to the sales of its phones. However, the organization cautions that this supply chain is a pilot project and should be seen as a first step - challenges remain to scale up and optimize the supply chain over the long run for the rest of the industry."
Every smartphone contains about 40 minerals that originally enter the supply chain from the mining sector – a challenging industry in terms of human rights.
Throughout the process of creating their smartphones, Fairphone works to map their supply chain, trace the materials used in the phone, and identify opportunities for making social and environmental improvements. The social enterprise is instigating interventions in a variety of areas, ranging from worker welfare to e-waste and recycling. From a mining perspective, Fairphone is focused on supporting more responsible sourcing of the four so-called conflict minerals (tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold).
With the first Fairphone, the organization collaborated with (and continues to support) initiatives for sourcing tin and tantalum from conflict-free mines in the DRC. In parallel to developing the Fairphone 2, the organization turned its attention to tungsten and gold.
Because tiny amounts of gold are extremely valuable, this mineral is very prone to smuggling. Even outside of conflict and high-risk regions, gold mining poses a wide variety of social and environmental challenges, such as land disputes, sub-standard wages, unsafe working conditions, child labor, and mercury pollution. However for many mining communities worldwide, it provides their main source of income and livelihood.
"By purchasing Fairtrade certified gold, Fairphone hopes to demonstrate to the consumer electronics industry that by forming the right partnerships, it is possible to open up and map supply chains and influence more responsible sourcing practices. In addition, Fairphone believes that increased awareness for projects like these will stimulate consumer demand for electronics that contain."
Momentum for Change
The news comes a month after Fairphone received the UN Momentum for Change Award during the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris.
Momentum for Change is an initiative spearheaded by the UN Climate Change secretariat to shine a light on game-changing initiatives towards a more sustainable future. Fairphone was selected as one of 16 game-changing initiatives that are proving to be some of the most practical, scalable and replicable examples of what can be done to tackle climate change.
" It was an incredible honour to be awarded the UN Momentum for Change Award" said Bas van Abel, Founder and CEO, Fairphone. "This award gives us and our community the confidence to grow the movement for fairer electronics, and hope that disruptive initiatives like ours can bloom all over the world, in any industry, to drive the transition towards a more sustainable and fair economy."
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