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How fair is your smartphone?



Introducing Fairphone: the world’s first “ethical smartphone. At first glance, it appears to be just like any other. While some reviewers have said its competitors may beat it in the technology department, when it comes to moral superiority, Fairphone wins hands down.

This article originally appeared in Blue & Green Tomorrow’s Guide to Sustainable Spending 2013.

The unique selling point of the device lies not with the phone itself, but with the team behind it. Led by Bas van Abel, Fairphone’s manufacturers are dedicated to creating a “fairer smartphone economy, taking into account the exact impact that their activities are having on the real world.

The concept of Fairphone started after a campaign in 2010 sought to highlight, according to its creators, “abuses in electronics supply chains”. The social enterprise soon saw their pipedream of creating a completely ethical phone as actually tangible.

“Using existing initiatives such as Conflict-Free Tin Initiative and Solutions for Hope, we managed to ensure sources of tin and tantalum are conflict-free and we’re trying to be as transparent as possible throughout the supply chain, from the mines to the factories to the end user”, says Tessa Wernink, communications director at Fairphone.

Wernink adds that Fairphone acts as a platform to bring together all of the issues of social and environmental value that the electronics industry can have.

Although the company admits that it is a very small challenger to a massive industry, Wernink says that its aim is to show “best practice” by inspiring both industry and consumers to completely rethink which phones they use. She adds that some of the bigger smartphone companies are also working towards more ethical handsets, and concedes that Fairphone may not be necessary if the industry does indeed change for the better.

The Fairphone handset itself is made from materials that are sourced from places where the demand for such materials does not create conflict, war or inequality. The tin used comes from mines in South Kivu Province in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the tantalum comes from conflict-free mines in the north of the country. Fairphone claims that every material used to manufacture its device is precious, and by buying its phone, you can “change the way the industry sources, processes and perceives these precious materials. 

But its ethical mission does not stop there. Fairphone strives to ensure that every worker involved in the production of its smartphone is paid the living wage, a luxury much coveted by many employees working in supply chains around the world. We know from the developments this year in the global supply chain that often, the high demands of western consumerism come at the cost of the basic rights of those living in under-developed countries. Fairphone, along with many other organisations and companies, is working to address these issues.

But do these ethical considerations mean that you’ll be paying through the nose?

Well, if you put it next to Google’s Nexus 4, which has a similar kind of specification, you’ll see that it may cost a little bit extra. Whereas Google’s device retails at £199, the Fairphone was launched in September with a price tag if £274.

However, the beauty of the price is that the company publishes a complete breakdown of every single penny that you are spending and where that is going. According to their website, €185 is spent on the product itself with €45 spent on admin and operational costs and just €22 on making sure that the process of manufacturing the phone does not impact on the lives of the workers. This includes a workers’ welfare fund and the cost of mitigating the impact of e-waste, a problem that was recently said endangers the health of more than 200 million people around the globe.

In actual fact, when considered that the removable battery significantly increases the lifespan of the smartphone, that little bit of extra cash is probably worth it in the long run. But probably one of the most unique features of this smartphone is that it houses two SIM cards, meaning that the user can alternate between work and personal mobiles without needing to carry two handsets, but also cutting back the number of mobile phones in circulation.

Let us hope that Fairphone manages to disrupt the status quo within the smartphone industry, rustle up a few feathers and get the big players to focus on making their phones more ethical. It’s a refreshing change to see a smartphone company working not for mass profit or in the interest of its shareholders, but for mass social change in the interest of the planet and its people.

Further reading:

Want to find out the ecological cost of a product? There’s an app for that

The top ethical shopping smartphone apps

Nike launches iPhone app to score sustainability of its products

Social media can help large retailers lead the way on ethical consumerism

The Guide to Sustainable Spending 2013


New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035



renewable energy policy
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Eviart /

New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.

New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.

Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.

Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”

The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.

Zero net emissions by 2050

Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.

Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.

She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.

Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”

A worldwide shift to renewable energy

Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.

Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.

Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.

Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.


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How Going Green Can Save A Company Money



going green can save company money
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By GOLFX

What is going green?

Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.

The first step in going green

There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.

Making needed changes within the company

After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.

Reducing the common paper waste

paper waste

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Yury Zap

Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.

Make money by spreading the word

Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.

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