EDIT: I’ve changed the title of the thread to make it clear that this is not similar to carbon offsetting but is actually doing what Fairphone themselves do for the materials in the Fairphone. I work that out here: Can I do my own mass-balancing?, so some of the previous posts are about the debate of this method compared to carbon offsetting, so a bit off topic (but weren’t at the time).
I’ve been thinking… I know, I should be careful!
First, I was wondering how much all of the initiatives which FairPhone are taking would add to the cost of a product. Because, I think one of the “scary” things for the industry is the perceived additional cost of Fairtrade gold, recycled copper and plastic, conflict-free tin and tungsten, etc. (Note that I know the cost of a “living wage” can be quantified, as Fairphone have stated this clearly). If there was an easy way to say, “For this device, to use Fairtrade gold would cost €x more per unit” then this would help both consumers and suppliers.
Then I wondered if there was a way I could do this without needing to rely on the manufacturer doing it. Could I buy some Fairtrade gold and resell it into the market to compensate for the fact that my original purchase did not use Fairtrade gold? This would allow conscientious consumers (like me!) to carry on consuming whilst massaging our consciences!
Then, I thought, why aren’t Fairphone already doing this somehow? Fairphone already have a better understanding of the materials supply chain than most other smartphone and electronics vendors - most vendors don’t actually get involved in the supply chain for raw materials, they just depend on their manufacturing partners to do this for them. Fairphone could get consumers to tell them a product and Fairphone could estimate the additional cost to use ethically sourced materials. The consumer could then pay Fairphone to buy these ethically sourced materials and resell them into the market, which would (as far as I understand) make them available for other manufacturers to use and support and grow an ethical supply chain for raw materials.
Fairphone could also use this to “name and shame” other vendors. E.g. How much extra would it cost to make an Iphone from ethically sourced materials (if you ignore the fact they say they already do this, without evidence)? I would hope that one result of this would be for manufacturers to start to work with Fairphone to improve their supply chain, or they could just use Fairphone as their materials sourcing partner. This would generate business for Fairphone and deliver the impact that Fairphone are looking for.
But I suppose my key question is: Could “offsetting” raw materials like this actually work, in the same way that allegedly “works” (I know it doesn’t really) for greenhouse gasses offsetting? And if so, how can I start offsetting?