Fair Trade Smartphone for Sale in 2013
An artisanal cobalt miner in the Democratic Republic of the Congo talks with FairPhone staff. FairPhone is a Netherlands-based initiative to sell fair trade and conflict-free smartphones.
CREDIT: From "Nous Sommes FairPhone" on Vimeo
Smartphones may soon join coffee, diamonds and chocolate as a product people may choose to buy fair trade and conflict-free. A new nonprofit, FairPhone, aims to sell a smartphone made from labor and materials that are fair to workers and the environment, the Verge reported.
FairPhone plans to have a small run of its product ready by late 2013. The organization, which is based in the Netherlands, will hold a crowd-funding campaign to sell up to 5,000 FairPhones. In addition, KPN, a Dutch telecommunications company, has promised to buy 1,000 FairPhones.
"We know we can't change the system overnight as a small player with little leverage, but we think we have to make it tangible, raise awareness step by step," Bas van Abel, FairPhone's director and CEO, told the Verge.
Some of the harmful practices that FairPhone wants to avoid include the use of poorly-treated workers in China and Mexico; building quickly outdated phones that end up in landfills; and the use of minerals whose sale enriches violent militias in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. [SEE ALSO: Is It Ethical to Own an iPhone?]
In particular, FairPhone doesn't want simply to avoid any Congolese minerals altogether, which puts artisanal miners out of business, the Verge reported. Instead, FairPhone and its partner organizations have visited the central African country to learn how to establish supply lines outside of the militias. In an October blog post, FairPhone celebrated the first bags of certified conflict-free tin leaving mines in South Kivu, DRC, a milestone brokered by the Dutch government.
Although it's too soon to know how much a FairPhone will cost, one expert the New Scientist talked with thought it won't be a problem if it's more expensive than what's on the market today. "Consumers want good products that are not exploiting people and not trashing the planet," said Patricia Jurewicz of the Responsible Sourcing Network. "But they have no idea which companies are good or bad."