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Fairphone, the Dutch company which might change the smartphone’s industry

First of all Fairphone is known to be a smartphone, but behind the product there is also a company adopting sustainable srategy in its DNA. The EcoGuide IT team has the honour to interview Fabian Hühne, from communication department, so as to know if the company is Green IT as its product ! What was … Continuer la lecture de « Fairphone, the Dutch company which might change the smartphone’s industry »

First of all Fairphone is known to be a smartphone, but behind the product there is also a company adopting sustainable srategy in its DNA. The EcoGuide IT team has the honour to interview Fabian Hühne, from communication department, so as to know if the company is Green IT as its product !

photo credit : Fairphone

What was the motivation behind the creation of the Fairphone?

First, we wanted to focus on the mineral’s extraction side, mostly because of conflict minerals from countries such as the DRC. Our aim was to propose a smartphone free from conflict minerals. Our idea was to produce a smartphone which would be sustainable from a social point of view at each step of its supply chain, which is why it was essential to focus on conflict minerals first. We are still working on this as also Fairphone is not 100% sustainable just yet. The production and selling of such a sustainable product is also a way to influence the smartphone industry. We want to prove that you can manufacture a smartphone and be respectful towards Human Rights along the supply chain. Fairphone 2 is modular, its components are exchangeable and it is easier to recycle.

Fairphone 2 is referenced on our EcoGuide and it seems to be a success, Orange, a big European telecom company, is started selling it in France.  Could you tell us what is your distribution medium-term strategy?

On the company level our primary target is growth.  We have a rising influence in the industry thanks to the increasing awareness of consumers regarding sustainable development. Next, we have a budding strategy linked to sustainability and our product. The objective is to strengthen our position in those country’s markets where we are already present, such as the German speaking countries. We think our company’s growth will be strongly linked to the awareness and consideration of sustainable development coming from consumers, governments and companies themselves.

As we noticed, the first product of the brand was not as successful as the second one because of the closure of the components production and the software refreshing. How can you certify your clients that it won’t be the same regarding Fairphone 2?

Fairphone 1 was the first smartphone, which focused on conflict minerals and setting up fairer supply chains. Unfortunately, the manufacturer of Fairphone 1 closed but the repairs still went on for quite a while -some of the spare parts are actually still available. We learnt a lot from that experience and took the measures that can  avoid such issues with the Fairphone 2. If one of our suppliers closes or stops production, we can buy stock, which can answer the demand. Moreover, Fairphone 1 was not modular, it was repairable – in the sense that you could take out the battery and repair parts but it wasn’t modular in the way the second is. Because of its modular design, Fairphone 2 components are easier to find, replace and the supply chain management is easier to handle if an issue appears. If one of our manufacturers closes, we can more easily find another one to get the spare part needed.

We understood that a part of brand’s strategy is to provide services linked to the product and not to sell as many products as possible. However, are you thinking about creating and selling a Fairphone 3?

Currently we are focussing on Fairphone 2. The modular infrastructure gave us the opportunity to upgrade the device and we releaed a new camera module in September.

Your brand policy is mainly based on transparency in front of clients and resellers, even if you’re not perfect, it’s a quality’s evidence, but certification and labialisation are too. Do you think about get other certification than B-Corp and why you don’t communicate a CSR report?

We have several other certifications than B-Corp. For instance, we get the Blue Angel label, which has a huge recognition in German speaking countries and the Fairtrade Gold certification focused on our supply chain. We are aware that certifications and labelling play as proofs of our communication and transparency position. Regarding the CSR report, we did not publish one in 2017, but our company is concerned about employee’s security and wellness all along the value chain. We will release an impact report soon, looking back at 2017.  We are improving working conditions and work with local partners to work together on finding solutions to those. At the headquarters in Amsterdam, which is composed of 65 workers, we launched community lunch, free yoga, languages and sports classes. We have also adopted an environmental strategy getting our office working with 100% wind energy.

Is the brand thinking about another IT product based on the same idea as the Fairphone, such as a Faircomputer for instance?

Our aim is to raise awareness of issues related to the supply chain of IT products. It is easier to connect people to a smartphone since it is such a personal device. Thats why we focus on this product to support our aims on transparency and to reconnect people to their devices. Fairphone is used as a storytelling device.

As a category maker, do you think that other IT brands will follow your business model? Why?

First, even if we do not influence the industry, its current business model is not sustainable, on sourcing, production rhythms, and the way of work. We think it is just a matter of time before other constructors also start producing more sustainably and we hope to inspire them to do so. That is the first obvious reason to explain why other brands will change their production strategy.
Secondly, the consumer’s awareness about IT and sustainability is growing and they care about the environmental and health impact of their smartphone. Historically, sustainability does unfortunately not play a bit role in the electronics industry. But consumers worldwide are included, even if they do not follow the same consumption model or the same awareness regarding sustainable development. Nonetheless, when you produce a sealed battery, you get the same issues in Asia as in Europe. For those reasons, IT business must change quickly to answer this global issue.

photo from : Tiny to repair

Juliette Bernier