Fairphone's toxic chemicals policy

Hi everyone,

I was thinking about buying a phone that contains conflict-free materials when I first found out about Fairphone.

I have to say that I was very impressed with Fairphone’s policies regarding the sourcing of materials and supply chain management. However, I read in an article (link featured below) that the organisation Ethical Consumer could not find any information on the Fairphone website, nor did they receive any response from Fairphone, regarding Fairphone’s policies around the use of toxic chemicals such as phthalates, PVC and brominated flame retardants (BFRs).

The article also stated that Fairphone lost a whole mark under their Environmental Reporting category because its report did not contain at least two dated and quantified environmental targets.

Before I make a choice and decide to buy a Fairphone, I would really appreciate if you could tell me what Fairphone’s stand on these issues is and whether this company uses these toxic chemicals to produce their smartphone or not.

Article: https://www.ethicalconsumer.org/technology/shopping-guide/mobile-phones


Fairphone replied to my message and sent me an interactive map with suppliers, which I appreciated.

However, they did not answer my questions directly and I think that’s precisely what made Ethical Consumer give Fairphone a bad rating in terms of toxic chemicals use and environmental policies. I couldn’t find any information in their various reports, including the list of suppliers, smelters and refiners, regarding the use of harmful chemicals such as phthalates, PVC and brominated flame retardants (BFRs).

I only found a text saying that your “programs address a variety of issues, ranging from reducing the use of hazardous chemicals at the factories to enhancing employee influence over day-to-day operations by strengthening workermanagement dialogue”.

I think this information is positive, but their answer telling me or other inquiries to find it by ourselves could do more harm than good for Fairphone. Besides, the information is a bit too general and doesn’t provide the specific information on those chemicals that I was looking for. And I am not going to go through every single one of your suppliers to find out whether they’re using them, because I think that should be their job.

To sum up, despite appreciating the interactive map they sent me (https://www.fairphone.com/nl/hoe-wij-werken/mapping-phone-made/), their response was quite underwhelming and it definitely affects my opinion on Fairphone negatively if I have to recommend it or decide to buy a Fairphone.

I moved the continuation to this topic, as I don’t think, that a new posting needs a new “Update” thread.

You are aware, that this a community forum and nothing official Fairphone?
So it’s not “our” program.


Quite understandable and essentially true.
Still, you have to keep in mind, that Fairphone is a rather small company. Therefore their ability to change things in large factories producing for various other companies as well, is quite limited. As their focus was on fair materials and fair working conditions first, they had to find suppliers willing to comply on that behalf.
My guess would be, that the list was rather short and the chance to chose not really there, since the different suppliers had to work together.
In my humble opinion, they are working on it, but right now can not guarantee that no hazardous chemicals are used by all suppliers.
But that’s wild guessing only, of course.


Related on that, one possible way for setting a signal to the industry is to set up an own transparent production. For example not in an own company, more as a sub production within an existing company, but with no limitations. The benefit would be a win on the company side for getting knowledge of sustainable production and on Fairphone side the partnership with a bigger company who is already a known player in electronics production.

There are quite some points on the positive side:

  • no limitations by foreign production rules
  • scalable on own needs
  • possibility for certifications
    • green production
    • sustainable production
    • environmental protection
    • worker welfare
  • one piece flow -> no batch production
    • CIP (continuous improvement process)
    • better calculable production outcome
  • responsibility for own employees
    • payment
    • working hours
    • handling hazardous or toxic substances / machines

The mission of FP to change the industry where the products are made could be stronger as to fit the Fairphone production into an existing production.

1 Like

Thank you so much for your response and sorry for creating an unnecessary second thread. Sorry for the “your programs” mistake as well. I am also contacting Fairphone directly and I pasted here my message to them, so I should’ve changed “your” to their programs.

I totally understand your point. As I read the report on Ethical Consumer, which considers Fairphone the best option to buy, I thought it was such a shame that they didn’t have clearer information on their suppliers’ use of toxic chemicals or environmental policies, so I wanted to get in touch with Fairphone and the forum to see if I could get some answers. I hope we can all think of possibilities to improve transparency on these issues and reduce the use of harmful substances.


I am absolutely with you in the desire, that Fairphones are free from hazardous and toxic substances.
If the FP3 is really selling as good as Fairphone hopes and they can sell 100,000 phones or more a year, they possibly are getting near the point, where they get their own production line in a plant. If they really have a conveyor belt, that is running all year long producing Fairphones, they possibly could manage to fix a deal, that takes those chemicals in account as well, as @ElKrasso described.
All my guessing again of course.


I would love to see that. Not only because it would turn out that all people who didn’t believe in what Fairphone stands for were wrong. =)

I’m sharing here the latest response from Fairphone:

"Dear Pau,

Thank you for your message. I am sorry that the map is in dutch. I cannot understand all of it either and I am aware that this is not ideal.
I am also sorry that I am not able to provide you with more information on the chemicals.
Here is another article about the 10 materials we are focusing on the most: https://www.fairphone.com/en/2017/02/01/fairer-materials-a-list-of-the-next-10-were-taking-on/
Unfortunately, there is only so much that we can do with our small company and we hope to address more materials and chemicals in the future.

Again, my apologies for not being able to provide you with more information.
Please let me know if there is anything else that I can help you with.

Kind regards."

I think it is a shame that Fairphone can’t be as good as Apple or Huawei (according to Ethical Consumer) in terms of not using toxic chemicals and I also think there must be someone within the company who could’ve answered me better or given me more info…


Hi again! I recently received an interesting answer from Fairphone’s support team regarding this issue:

" I asked the Value Chain department, apparently this question is extremely difficult to answer but this is what I could find out for you.

They have asked me to refer you to REACH and ROHS legislation which controls the hazardous substances in products and we comply with both. We have policies in place and use compliance tools to continuously check the information we get from suppliers to make sure we stay compliant.

Electronics always contain hazardous substances. For example lithium in the battery or flame retardants in the plastic of printed circuit board.

The latter is present in a lot of everyday objects. Plastic burns very quickly and most objects in our homes contain/are made of plastic, meaning that, in case of fire, an entire room would disappear in a few minutes without those retardants. However, flame retardants are also potentially cancerogenic to humans and produce unhealthy smoke when…they are set on fire.

REACH and ROHS regulate the use (quantities, types, applications…) of these and other hazardous substances. The regulation is linked to research, as it is often difficult to asses the health effects of substances, especially when present in small quantities."


Hi Pau_T,

Greetings from Fairphone HQ! Maybe I can provide you with a bit more in-depth reply.

Regarding the use of hazardous chemicals such as phthalates, PVC (banned) and brominated flame retardants (BFRs), I can note that Fairphone has restricted this for Fairphone 2 already. There used to be page on our website for Fairphone 2, but luckily there is still a summary in Greenpeace’s 2017 Green Electronics report (page 2: hazardous chemical elimination) https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/GGE2017_Fairphone.pdf ) This highlights we banned the use of PVC and largely eliminated the use of BFR and phthalates for Fairphone 2.

For Fairphone 3, have also set restrictions for the use of hazardous materials within the product in a Restricted Substances List. These include BFR, HFRs, phthalates, ozone-depleting substances, nickel, mercury, arsenic and many, many more. The restrictions meets the restrictions set in legislation such as REACH and ROHS, or is some cases go beyond legislation, modeled after industry best practice. Some materials are banned, for example, no PVC may be used anywhere and mercury may not be used in the LED’s behind the screen. We use compliance tools to continuously check the information we receive from suppliers to ensure stay compliant.

Beyond the materials used in product, we have look at the chemicals that are used in the production process but that don’t end up in your phone. Using these chemicals means there is a risk that workers in the factory may get exposed to them. Since 2017, Fairphone is an active member of the Clean Electronics Production Network (http://www.centerforsustainabilitysolutions.org/clean-electronics#cepn-about). CEPN is a NGO led network with the goal to ensure no workers in the electronics industry get exposed to hazardous chemicals.

Fairphone has included in the Restricted Substances List that we don’t want hazardous process chemicals to be used, such as benzene, hexane, toluene, formaldehyde, NMP and others. We support manufacturers to identify risks and find safer alternatives, see for example an old blog on Broadway where we supported the phase out of n-hexane (see “Goal 2: Reducing the use of hazardous chemicals during production” https://www.fairphone.com/en/2017/10/26/creating-better-working-environment-broadway/

You are right that the information is not available on the website and that the answers obtained via customer support were not optimal. Sorry for that. Information on our hazardous materials management approach will become available on our website in the future. Unfortunately we couldn’t publish everything we wanted all at the same time and we were forced to make choices. In 2020 we will publish more and more about our efforts and approaches, so thanks for your patience and stay tuned :slight_smile:

Warm regards,


Thanks @Remco_FP and thanks @Pau_T for starting this thread. I was wondering what I could ask other electronics suppliers in this regard and this answer from FP is very helpful.

Cheers :slight_smile:


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