Fairphone 2: who is the fairest of them all?

30 September 2015 | ResolutionPossible

This weekend was the UK launch of the Fairphone 2. Resolution:Possible was invited to their launch party where we were able to take a closer look at this much anticipated new smart phone. We met the Fairphone team and learned about the thought behind the sourcing of the phone’s materials, its design and its modularity meaning that you can open the phone up and replace any of the components yourself.

20150927 Holding a Fairphone2fairphone 2; components; modular design; durability20150925-taking apart Fairphone2(2)

Above from left to right: holding a prototype of the Fairphone 2; ResPoss researcher Anielka Pieniazek opening up one of the prototypes; a disassembled Fairphone 2.

Even if you are not particularly interested in electronics, this is a very exciting phone. The Fairphone team were more than happy to let us play around with the phone, take it apart, look at all the components and put it back together (pictured above).

Fairphone started out as a social enterprise that wanted to build a smartphone with ethically sourced metals. And so the first Fairphone was born. However, with Fairphone 2 they have taken this a step further: a phone that is build with ethically sourced metals as well as a phone that does not need to end up in the bin as soon as it is broken. The aim is that if one component of the phone breaks, you can replace this component and carry on using the phone.

Who is the fairest of them all? Fairphone openly admit that the road to a completely ethical phone is a long and windy one, and they are not quite there yet. We think this kind of transparency is extremely helpful to consumers and other companies: just because it is not 100% perfect yet, does not mean that it isn’t a step in the right direction.

not 100% fair yet; fair phone; electronics; mobile phone; smart phone; fair-trade; economic justice; conflict mineral

We loved the displays showing samples the metals and the components they are used for, a selection pictured below. We have been studying the implications of the demand for these metals for electronics over the past few years, and were excited to see the information displayed like this, bringing home the message that these metals really do make up our phones.

gold; copper; aluminium; fairphone; circuit board; chip; sim card

The weekend consisted of many hands-on workshops and on Sunday Fairphone screened ‘We will win peace‘ a film by Seth Chase and Ben Radley exploring the implications of article 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Act on the local economy in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Section 1502 requires persons to disclose annually whether any conflict minerals that are necessary to the functionality or production of a product of the person, as defined in the provision, originated in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or an adjoining country and, if so, to provide a report describing, among other matters, the measures taken to exercise due diligence on the source and chain of custody of those minerals, which must include an independent private sector audit of the report that is certified by the person filing the report.

– Section 1502 of the ‘Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act’, known in DR Congo as ‘Obama’s Law’.

The film narrates how campaigns led by an organisation called the Enough Project, and other grass roots student and civil society movements mostly in the US, backfired when the Dodd-Frank Act was passed. Economies such as that of eastern DRC rely almost completely on artisanal mining. The Dodd-Frank Act did not come with a contingency plan for what to do if mines were not compliant, resulting in the Congolese government temporarily shutting the mines down, shattering the local economy. The film poses the question of how useful it is for people who have mostly never been to Congo to campaign for the end of a conflict they do not fully understand. The filmmakers also highlighted the lack of adequate engagement with local government, the miners themselves and civil society which could have prevented the Act from having such a detrimental impact on the people of eastern DRC.

WE WILL WIN PEACE; CONFLICT MINERALS; SUPPLY CHAIN; metals; mining; congo; dec; democratic republic of congo

Panel discussion after the screening of We Will Win Peace. Angela Jorns from Estelle Levin (left), Assheton Carter from The Dragonfly Initiative (centre), and Bibi Bleekemolen from Fairphone (right).

It was an interesting point to reflect on and reminded us of our own early beginnings as Resolution:Possible when we were part of a campaign against the Lord’s Resistance Army without fully comprehending repercussions of our actions.

The screening was followed by a panel discussion including Angela Jorns from Estelle Levin, a consultancy advising on development and support to Artisanal and Small-scale Mining, and Assheton Carter from The Dragonfly Initiative which advises companies on their corporate strategies by for example linking them to socially responsible suppliers and producers. They both agreed that the complexity of the conflict mineral issue makes it extremely difficult to resolve and felt that better communication with local governments and stakeholders as well as the creation of an actual system for traceability of the minerals would be much more helpful than closing down mining operations in the Congo. They felt this would only lead to unemployment and an increase in people joining armed groups.

We want to thank Fairphone and Kwamecorp for opening their doors to us, for teaching us more about the supply chain of our mobile phones and for giving us food for thought on the current conversations about conflict minerals.

For a more technical review of the Fairphone 2, check out this article ‘Fairphone wants you to take apart your smartphone’ by James Vincent (The Verge).

For those of you based in and around Berlin or Paris: Fairphone will be touring with their interactive workshops and pop up shop to a venue near you in the next few months, so be sure to go say hello and take disassemble a few ethical smart phones!

Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!

You must be logged in to post a comment.