I very much like the fairphone approach, but for my personal situation I don’t need such a high-performance phone. I of course understand that this is just a good beginning, and maybe there will be other phones in the future… But then I had another idea, and I’m really curious to know if this is a valid idea, and if it is realistic.
What if fairphone, or a new organisation, would come up with something like a fairfuturephone “label”. The idea would be to research somehow how fair or unfair another existing phone is, to then calculate the price difference with an imaginary equivalent phone that would be built in a fair way. Then, someone buying this non-fair-phone could at the time of purchase (or perhaps later) opt to pay this price difference (much like e.g. opting to pay for CO2 compensation with some train/bus/flight companies), which would add the fairfuture-phone label. This extra money could then be attributed to projects to improve the fairness in the chain!
I’m aware that this approach is not really complete and I could imagine I’m overlooking important problems (e.g. to what extent is it possible to find out the “fairness” of a given product…), but I could really imagine there is something realistic possible in this direction… And it could also extend to other tech products. I’m particularly curious to hear the @moderators opinion. Furthermore, if this seems like a viable idea, I would happily aid in the realisation of it.
I don’t think a lot of people who buy unfair phones would be willing to pay more to compensate.
There are however already some organizations rating the fairness of phones or phone companies. You can find a list at the bottom of this guide.
As you say, it’s hard to define what is fair, so these rankings are sometimes quite contradictory.
Generally FP’s whole plan is to inspire other companies to become fairer and to help them FP is trying to be very transparent with their supply chain, so others can copy them.
A label should definitely be independent however, so Fairphone shouldn’t do this themselves.
Thanks for your answer @paulakreuzer .
To my feeling, there are a lot of people who would be willing to (definitely myself :~), but who don’t simply because there are not enough options. Moreover, this would allow people to contribute by not even having to buy a new phone. That’s another really big plus for ecology, i.e. the reduction of e-waste.
Thanks for that! I’d be curious to know how such information can be gathered. Are companies obliged to make such information openly available? Or is it hard work, trying to contact them, and taking their word for what they say? Would you have a pointer to help me further with that? That would be great!
Oh yes… I can believe so! Defining things like fairness and ethics is a great challenge, and actually impossible to give a precise definition. But, good attempts are probably better than nothing, isn’t it? I’ll see to what extent I could gather information… Also, I think a rough estimate is good enough for this idea.
Thanks. Indeed, it’s interesting. I understand that FP’s approach is to demonstrate a healthy example, so the importance and need is illustrated, as such motivating and inspiring other companies to take up their responsibilities.
Just like the FP, the idea I propose here also relies on consumers paying more, but the effect is different: it would engender a shift in responsibility. The extra money paid would go directly as a donation to healthy sourcing companies (and possibly other companies/initiatives to improve the fairness in the chain), which in turn can make their source material available at prices competing with “unhealthy” companies. In this scenario, the existing phone and tech companies would loose these responsibilities, without them necessarily knowing.
When you think it through, it really seems to hold, as far as I can see. This is why I come here now, to ask your serious consideration, because you are completely into this business, and you might see things that I cannot see.
Some of it: yes, but probably most of it: no.
I guess you best ask Greenpeace or one of the other organizations doing the rankings about that. One ranking that is easy is the iFixit one. They just have to get their hand on a device and try taking it apart to come up with their score - and the community can help.
They don’t really. Sure, there are some people saying that there are better phones out there for the same price, but anybody can say that about all but one phone, which they deem to be the best when it comes to cost effectiveness.
FP doesn’t really rely on you paying more for their product to do good, they just take a portion of what would be the profit and do their good work with that.
I believe what you propose - just like carbon pricing - can only work as a law, not on a voluntary basis.
I mean, sure, you can get some people who want to support Fairphone, but e.g. live in the US and can’t buy one - to donate to FP or similar companies, but most likely not enough to make a noticeable difference in the price of fairer products. To really level the playing field you have to force everybody to participate.
My problem with this concept is, that you - with no money in the world - can undo the exploitation of children in mines or workers in factories.
Buying an unfair phone means placing the profit with unfair companies. How would money help compensate the unfair production.
It’s a bit different with CO2, as this is something that can be “consumed” to “undo” what was produced before. (Well that concept has it’s flaws as well.)
The only way would be, if companies start using the chain and standards implemented by Fairphone and others already. Compensation would do nothing to increase the demand for fair materials / working conditions i.e. the business opportunities for fair companies would not be increased.
That’s true, but e.g. the point of carbon pricing is also not really to undo the damage done with large-footprint-products, but to get more people and companies to make better choices by making better products cheaper and more evil products more expensive.
If you buy a product containing palm oil for which a primeval forest was cut down you also can’t undo that damage by throwing money at it.
So that would indeed get companies to
It was not carbon pricing I had in mind, but rather the concept of CO2 compensation by companies like atmosfair (So you can fly and “undo” your carbon footprint; in a way)
The palmoil example is a very good one!
Thanks again for your very valuable feedback and examples (Greenpeace, iFixit. Check!) This is really inspiring and brings me further!
Oh, this comes as a surprise to me, you might be right…
It took me a while to puzzle this out, and I concluded that I maybe I also need to reframe how to put this! It may well be that FP takes a portion of what would be the profit, and hence they are a generous company. But then I realised that this doesn’t matter for the fairphone-label idea (I’m going to think of another name for it btw!). The point is that the source materials from fair sourcers is more expensive now (please correct me if I’m wrong, but I had in mind that this was part of the core problems), and that paying badly paid workers more is evidently more expensive…, so my idea still holds… (see my next point also for clarification.)
Well, I apologise for not having been clear in my first post. I think it became clearer to myself when I elaborated the idea in my second post, on aiming for a responsibility shift. When the money is used to support fair sourcing companies, they can sell their goods at competitive prices, so that the tech companies would choose for them. Regarding child labour, it could be an idea to donate a part of the money to companies that have good policies regarding this. It’s a funny twist, but I don’t see now what would be wrong with it? Ok, maybe it’s too bad that “the tech companies wouldn’t have learned to take up their responsibilities”, but to my feeling the system how it is now might set unrealistic expectations on those tech companies (but again, I have to be careful with such statements!).
So, indeed, we cannot undo crimes, but it seems we can use the money to prevent next crimes. And indeed - as with
it’s not complete, but it helps. It should not be a measure to put people back into their unaware comforts indeed! And even there might be room for creative solutions/improvements.
The same goes for the palm oil example. If you’d use the money to support ethical source companies of palm oil, they can propose a lower price to the next companies.
It also reminds me of an article I read on fairtrade orange juice. It turns out that the fairtrade orange juice is mixed with the non-fairtraide anyway, otherwise there would be need for separate containers to ship it, which would be disadvantageous financially and ecologically. So, you just drink the same as non-fairtrade orange juice, but your money goes to the fairtrade producers…
Again, all examples may have subtle yet important differences, and it’s therefore important to really dig into these matters before starting ambitious projects like this of course!
In general I like this concept.
Still I have my doubts.
It is correct and to everyones advantage, that fair and unfair materials end up in a pool from which all the companies get their stuff.
But the amount of fair and unfair materials being sent into the pool depends on contracts between the companies that use the materials and the companies that refine the materials or even the mining companies themselves.
Fairphone has explained their model in a blogpost, that has been discussed in another thread here already:
So, this model is working for the fair sourcing companies only if the companies using the materials are contracting them or the companies refining their materials especially for the fair sourced stuff.
Just feeding stuff into the pool on one side and taking it out on the other side is not how it works, as I understand from the Fairphone blogspot.
But I am really not a trading guy and have no experience or real knowledge concerning this field of business. So I might have got it totally wrong and your concept could work.
Though my understanding is the same, when it comes to contracting ecological energy supply in Germany. You pay e.g. Lichtblick or Greenpeace engery for delivering the energy to the pool and then you take the amount of energy from the pool (net) that you need. But the money and the contract is with the supplier of ecological (fair) energy.