Since the first Fairphone was crowd-funded in 2013, the company has been pursuing fairer, more transparent supply chains. Its goal is to track each and every component from start to finish, and it now publishes a supply chain map and names all suppliers on its website. It assesses working conditions at all suppliers before entering a business relationship and only uses Fairtrade gold in all products. As of June 2016, it had achieved full traceability on all four internationally recognised ‘conflict minerals’, and was working on sourcing fair trade cobalt for its batteries. For this reason, the company receives Ethical Consumer’s best rating for both its supply chain management and conflict mineral sourcing.
The company is also making efforts to address environmental issues in the electronics industry. Its modular design makes its products easier to repair, rather than discard and replace. It has launched campaigns on e-waste in companies without formal electronics recycling and its long-term goal is to directly reuse the metals obtained from scrap phones in future generations of Fairphone. It received Ethical Consumer’s best rating for Environmental Reporting. In 2016, Friends of the Earth Netherlands also identified Fairphone as an industry leader for its efforts to address environmental and social issues arising from its tin sourcing in Indonesia.
Unfortunately, Fairphone receives Ethical Consumer’s middle rating for its hazardous chemicals policy and therefore loses half a mark under Pollution and Toxics. Although it publishes data on its use of toxic chemicals, it has not committed to phasing out the hazardous substances PVC, BFCs and phthalates.
The production of phones is not associated with any animal rights abuses, and Fairphone therefore did not lose any marks in this category.
Fairphone began in 2010 as a project raising awareness about conflict minerals in electronics and the wars that the sourcing of these mineral was fuelling in the DRC. In 2013, it pre-sold 10,000 smartphones through crowd-funding and established its social enterprise, aimed at creating a fairer smartphone model.
Fairphone provides a full cost breakdown of where the money from each phone goes. Although it is registered as ‘for-profit’, its last model made just 9 Euro profit (before corporation tax) on each handset, which was reserved for unexpected costs or additional investments in its social impact programs. Ethical Consumer therefore considers the company to be essentially not-for-profit and has awarded it a positive Company Ethos mark.