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Ethical smartphone 'perfect fit' for the Phone Co-op

Friday, November 14th 2014 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

An ethical smartphone brought to the UK market by the Phone Co-op has been described as a “physical manifestation” of the company’s values.

The Fairphone is made by a Dutch social enterprise of the same name and was launched last month by the Phone Co-op, which has an exclusive deal to market the phone in the UK.

A spokesperson for the co-operative told Cable.co.uk that Fairphone fits well into the Phone Co-op’s ethos because of the relationships its producers have with its suppliers and manufacturers.

“It is basically the world’s first ethical smartphone,” he said.

“There is no other producer who can really say that because with the way supply chains are, it can be very difficult to trace where individual components, individual minerals are coming from.”

Fairphone sources the tin used in its smartphones from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and is part of the Conflict Free Tin Initiative, a closed supply chain in which minerals can be traced from the origin of the ore.

“Fairphone wanted have a personal relationship with mines in the DRC. That’s because they want to ensure, in the case of the minerals, that they are coming from mines in conflict-free zones,” said the spokesperson.

DRC also has 80% of the world’s supply of coltan, a mineral from which another material common in smartphones – tantalum – is extracted.

“A lot of these minerals can’t be sourced from any other country, but also by dealing with these people directly and making sure people are paid fairly, making sure they’re not subject to intimidation – you’re actually improving working conditions and economic prosperity of people in the Congo.

“That same ethos carries through to the factory in China, they work with a company called Guohang based in a city called Chongqing.

“They partnered with an organisation in China firstly to help them identify the right manufacturer that met various standards including the production method, the safety of the factory and welfare for workers.”

A worker welfare fund has now been set up at the factory. For every Fairphone sold around the world, five dollars goes towards improving skills, education and leisure activities.

The phone itself runs on the Android platform, has a removable battery and two SIM slots.

“The reason Co-op is so pleased about this partnership is because in many ways, Fairphone is a physical manifestation of their values,” the spokesperson said.

“It is an ethical company. It’s a living wage employer, it’s a member of the fair tax campaign – to make all companies pay their fair share of corporation tax – and it pays a dividend every year. The corporate fit is perfect.”

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