Most users have no idea that armed conflicts, child labour, and exploitation are hidden behind their cellular phones. Fairphone’s founder, Bas van Abel, started calling attention to this in 2010 and continued in 2013 with the start of his social enterprise. The production of every new phone is intended as one step forward in a process that puts people first. So far, Fairphone has sold more than 50,000 units of their newest phone model in Europe. The company grew from two to sixty- five employees in just four years.
Working conditions for those within the organisation and those who support Fairphone remotely also receive plenty of attention. In Africa, mine-building projects were started to procure materials sans conflict. Fairphone has also tapped into improved working conditions in Chinese factories. Interestingly, they are very explicit and honest about what they have and have not yet accomplished. Although materials from responsible sources like fairtrade gold are used wherever possible, the current Fairphone is not made of 100% ‘honest’ materials. In accordance with this desire for total transparency, their website shows how the selling price was set. In short, you know exactly where your money goes. Moreover, their phone is designed in such a way that critical parts, such as the camera and battery, can easily be repaired or replaced.
Recently, Fairphone won the prestigious European Internet prize, the Lovie Award, in the category ‘emerging entrepreneurs’. In 2015, Fairphone had already won the Tech Award for the fastest growing start-up in the netherlands. do they want to flood the market? Absolutely not. Fairphone is hoping to send a signal to other manufacturers. For them, it is about inspiring the mobile industry at large to behave more responsibly, not just in material sourcing, but also with regard to the durability of products, improved working conditions for everyone involved, and the recycling of obsolete materials.