This project has more to do with triggering change, rather than trying to solve all the problems in the world at once.Bas van Abel
„35 year-old Bas van Abel collaborated with 10 others to put together the first “fair” smartphone. A smartphone that doesn’t use any resources from conflict-zones, or the workforce of Chinese laborers in horrible conditions, nor does it involve filling up the bank accounts of the greedy rich. Sound naive? Bas van Abel, who launched the project 2 years ago, certainly is not. He knows that he’s not going to save the world with his Fairphone: ‚This project has more to do with triggering change, rather than trying to solve all the problems in the world at once.’This Dutch guy wants to demonstrate what we can achieve when we give it a go.“The goal was to create a “fair” smartphone for consumers that had the technology and a competitive price on par with established providers, but one that was not created with the use of conflicted resources and unfair labor conditions. The team managed to produce the first batch of 20,000 phones through crowd funding. Since December 2013, the phone is available for sale online, unseen and untested, at a cost of 325 Euro a pop, and sent out via mail, I bought one too.
Roos van de Weerd, Fairphone’s public engagement manager, explains: „Our project can only exert influence on other, larger companies such as Apple or Samsung if consumers show that they want transparency, fair deals and decent wages. We try to raise awareness. So far this has worked quite well.People are happy that there is finally a player in the industry making an effort to push these changes. Our goal is not to be a manufacturer who sells the highest quantity of objects, but to have an effect so that the “big” fish among us can learn and will be either inspired or compelled to follow us.“
What is a Fairphone?
Conflict-free, quality material
A smartphone contains around 30 different types of metals. Two of these, tin and tantalum, come from regions that are considered conflict-free, and should therefore help hinder any money from ending up in the pockets of warlords. Fairphone also supports the “Conflict-Free Tin Initiative”, a developmental aid project for the Congo, in which other companies such as Blackberry, HP, Motorola and Nokia are involved. There is a similar project for Tantalum called “Solutions for Hope“, founded by Motorola and supported by Fairphone and a great number of other electronic manufacturers.
Fairphone is interested in long-term relationships with manufacturers in China, because it requires perseverance and higher numbers to change the Chinese attitude. But even China knows that every development should be taken seriously, because the market for smartphones is so fast-paced. Who would have thought ten years ago that Samsung and Apple would dominate the market, and Nokia would be nearly dead and gone? Fairphone tries to spearhead a set of standards for a new collaborative direction with Chinese manufacturers. Fair production means fair working conditions, consideration of social and environmental aspects, and acquiring raw materials in a sustainable way.
Smarter design and an end to “disposable” phones
Roos van de Weerd also had this to say: „In order to ensure that people don’t just throw away their cell phones after two years, we will offer replacement parts online on our web shop, so that people can easily replace parts that no longer work.“ (Okur 2013) „In addition, not only will the glass screen be more robust, it will be much easier to replace as well. Instead of using the thinnest glass possible, in which the touch panel and screen are integrated as one, it was decided to make them separate pieces. Because of this, the phone will be 5 grams heavier, and 0.2 millimeters thicker as planned, but the risk of breakage is thus significantly reduced. In addition, according to the manufacturer, the Fairphone will still function even if the toughened and scratch-resistant Dragontrail glass breaks.“
 Bernau, V. (2013): Fairphone statt iPhone: Wie gerechte Smartphones produziert werden sollen, in sueddeutsche.de from 2/27/2013, download on 8/25/2013 at http://www.sueddeutsche.de/digital/fairphone-statt-iphone-wie-gerechte-smartphones-produziert-werden-sollen-1.1610920
 Okur, M. (2013): Wie fair ist das Fairphone?, in Wirtschaftswoche Green from 6/18/2013, download on 8/25/2013 at http://green.wiwo.de/interview-wie-fair-ist-das-fairphone/
 Labs, L. (2013): Auch das Fairphone wird in China gebaut, in heiseonline from 5/13/2013, download on 8/10/2013 at http://www.heise.de/newsticker/meldung/Auch-das-Fairphone-wird-in-China-gebaut-1861908.html
Photo Bas van Abel from Fairphone
weekly excerpt from the book THE NEXT WAVE IN BUSINESS
wishing you a circular week
cheers, Stefan Götz+