Fairphone: Building a Movement for Fairer Electronics

February 18, 2016
Case Studies
Please, show me the copper.

The Challenge

Nearly everyone owns or uses a phone. Most phones contain on average over 30 different minerals. These minerals are mined in various locations around the world, most of the time under poor conditions and have become known as conflict materials that fund rebel groups. Additionally, many smartphones are not designed to be long lasting and their technology changes frequently, enticing consumers to upgrade to new models regularly. Fairphone aims to tackle the planned obsolescence of electronics while supporting conflict-free and fairer minerals by working towards social improvements throughout the value chain.

The Approach

Established in 2010 as a campaign against conflict minerals and registered in 2013 as an independent social enterprise. Fairphone designs and produces modular smartphones that are easy to repair and long lasting. An inspiring example to the existing industry, the company is using modular design to extend the lifespan of their smartphones while opening up the supply chain and mapping the source of their materials. They are also enhancing the circularity of the supply chain by making spare parts more readily available and promoting do-it-yourself repairs.

"Pioneers in circular economy will reap the benefits as they are the game changers." - Bas van Abel, CEO
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Key Learnings

One of the principal challenges is shifting the consumer's mentality to slow down the replacement pace of smartphones. By allowing its users to purchase spare parts for do-it-yourself repairs, Fairphone’s reparability feature makes it easier for those users who do not consider themselves tech savvy. From the insights gained through repairs made to the first version of the Fairphone the company was able to identify the parts of the phone that most commonly break, and turn these into replaceable parts in version two. They found that reparability pays off because sustainability conscious consumers are willing to put the extra effort into replacing parts and caring for their device.

What’s Next?

Fairphone’s business model allows for the potential reduction of CO2 emissions by 25% and reduction of human toxicity by 42%. To date, the social enterprise has sold over 90,000 phones and continues to bring fairer phones to the market while inspiring positive change throughout the entire industry.


As a part of our member community Fairphone, shares in our ambition to make the circular economy a reality.
Learn more about this global network of changemakers by clicking the link below.

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