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  • Out of the mines of conflict, an awareness  campaign was born. One that sought to change the  

  • minds of millions and craft a better, more fairer  phone industry. The campaigners worked hard to  

  • raise consciousness and change the minds of phone  users. They established workshops that explained  

  • the complexities and horrors of a smartphone  supply chain, and encouraged the public to imagine  

  • what a fairer phone would be. But after two andhalf years, Apple, Samsung, and other giants kept  

  • exploiting and polluting. So, the awareness  campaign decided to do something a little  

  • different. They tried to make a fairer phone. This  is the story of that phone. How it's made, whether  

  • it's actually a good phone, and whether it's  the sustainable solution to the phone industry.

  • This video is sponsored by CuriosityStream,  

  • which now comes with Nebula for free when you  sign up using the link in the description.

  • Sustainability: The Fairphone, now in its third iteration,  

  • is doing something remarkable. Its foregrounding  sustainability and ethical labor practices  

  • throughout the phone's whole lifecycle. A feat  which Fairphone cofounder Miquel Ballester told me  

  • feels a lot likeswimming against the streams.”  Miquel and I talked a lot about the company,  

  • and you can access the entire interview on Nebula  or Patreon. When it comes to sustainability in  

  • smartphones there are really four areas to  consider: production, modularity, longevity,  

  • and recyclability. At first glance, Fairphone  seems to excel in all these categories when  

  • compared to other flagship phones. The Fairphone  begins in the production stage where the bulk of  

  • Fairphone's environmental impact comes from. The  potential global warming impact of a Fairphone 3  

  • is 39.5 kg of carbon dioxide equivalent. That's  a little over half of the Iphone 12's footprint.  

  • And of that 39.5 kg, roughly 81% comes from  the production phase, which encompasses mining  

  • of the materials all the way up to the day it  leaves the factory. One of the ways Fairphone  

  • has been able to drastically cut their impact  has been transportation. The phone is currently  

  • only sold in Europe so the company is able  to use trains instead of planes to transport  

  • all of their goods. As a result, they've reduced  the phone's transportation emissions by 87%.  

  • Equally as impressive is the phone's modularityModularity is where Fairphone rises above the  

  • pack. It takes 8 minutes to replace the screen  and 8 seconds to replace the battery. Unlike  

  • Apple or Samsung, the parts that matter aren't  glued down, so it's really easy to get into  

  • the phone and switch things out. This modularity  was so impressive that iFixit gave the Fairphone  

  • a 10/10 for repairability, and the new French  Repairability Index awarded the phone an 8.7/10,  

  • docking points for lack of phone blueprints  and delivery time of spare parts. But overall,  

  • this is markedly better than the iPhone 12s  6/10 score. And this modularity matters because,  

  • according to a third party lifecycle assessment  of the Fairphone, the core module of the phone,  

  • or where the circuit board and brains of the  phone live, accounts for 72% of the global  

  • warming potential of the whole phone. That means  that if users can just replace a camera part  

  • or a battery instead of the whole phone, they can  drastically reduce the phone's footprint. Indeed,  

  • one of the philosophies behind the phone  isDon't buy a new phone buy a new camera,  

  • because really changing the camera of your phone  is 6% of the CO2 emissions of the whole device.”  

  • The modular nature of Fairphone greatly  increases the longevity of the phone,  

  • but unfortunately Fairphone still has some  work to do in terms of lifespan. At the moment,  

  • Fairphone provides support to phones up to  5 years old. Their goal is to reach 7 years,  

  • but there are factors outside of the company's  control like constant hardware and software  

  • updates that are making this difficultWe are  swimming against the streams there, with building  

  • a long lasting phone.” That's Monique LempersImpact Innovation Director at Fairphone, “Certain  

  • components become end of life before our product  becomes end of life. Also at software level,  

  • we have to find workarounds to stretch the  software. It's an incredible challenge.”  

  • But even after the phone stops workingFairphone is still there. They're building  

  • out a robust recycling and repair network that  seeks to not only breathe life back into broken  

  • Fairphone parts, but they're also establishing  “a recycling program for any phone that you might  

  • want to give us. We either recycle it or refurbish  it.” The Fairphone itself is made up of 45.1% of  

  • recycled materials, which on their websiteFairphone admits should be better. Especially  

  • if one of their end goals is to reach a near zero  impact. But the sustainable future of Fairphone  

  • looks a little different than just a phone. Miquel  says these steps are building up to what he calls,  

  • Fairphone as a service.” Envisioning the company  not as a phone maker but something much larger:  

  • it's not so much attached to the hardware  that we sell, but to the service that we give  

  • to customers. You can serve more customers with  less stuff. Everything that we have done in having  

  • the product more repairable and long lasting  would be pushed further. The more we would make  

  • the phones repairable the less it would cost us  to serve every customer.” So, even after you buy a  

  • Fairphone, its performance and impact will still  be the company's responsibility. Incentivizing  

  • them to make the best, longest lasting phone. A  model similar to the bottle deposit systems of  

  • soda companies. In short, compared to Apple and  Samsung phones, Fairphone seems to be one of the  

  • environmentally conscious phones on the marketBut what about the company's labor practices?

  • Ethics

  • Trace any mineral required for smartphones like  gold, tungsten or tin back to its source and  

  • you'll often find yourself in one of the many  precious metal mines in the eastern regions of  

  • the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mines that were  born out of the imperialist resource extraction  

  • of the Global North and are now used to finance  bloody conflicts in the region. These mines,  

  • often employing forced child labor in terrible  conditions with paramilitary presence are what  

  • keep the prices of technology low. In shortthe U.S. and Europe gorge on cheap computers and  

  • phones and dump the true price of electronics onto  the majority world in the form of slave labor,  

  • gruesome working conditions, and bloody  wars. In an attempt to make a fairer phone,  

  • Fairphone is diving into their supply chains  headfirst, hoping to change mining conditions  

  • and influence other corporations to do the sameConflict minerals are the very reason Fairphone  

  • began, but becausethe phone has over 600-700  suppliers. Relationships change all the time.  

  • In that context it's quite a challenge to  build long lasting relationships and to  

  • trace your sources.” Despite this, the  company is still making some headway.  

  • One way they've approached minerals is by building  coalitions with other companies to gain leverage  

  • over supply chains. Fairphone did this with  their Cobalt Alliance initiative. “For the  

  • Fair Cobalt Alliance to exist actually we could  not do it on our own. That's why we had to knock  

  • doors and convince the Signify's of the world  because they have the real volume when it comes  

  • to cobalt and batteriesWe need more volume  to do the things we want to do.” So with the  

  • help of larger companies like Tesla and SignifyFairphone and the Fair Cobalt Alliance claim to be  

  • working to assure the eraditcaiton of child laborcreate ethical working conditions, and the spur  

  • economic diversification of mining communities  to lessen their reliance on mineral extraction  

  • in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Further up  the supply chain, Fairphone recently instigated  

  • a living wage bonus for all the employees at their  production factory in China. After some research  

  • and surveying factory workers on their ideal wageFairphone found that it only needed to raise the  

  • price of its phone by 1.5 euros or .33% of its  sales price to increase the wages. Wages that are  

  • now the equivalent of 4 times the minimum wage  of the region. While this is an amazing start,  

  • especially compared to the wages Apple factory  workers make in China, it's just a beginning.

  • The Edges of a Unfair System

  • Here's the thing, Fairphone is still not as fair  as it can be. A fact which the company admits over  

  • and over on their website and their founder, Bas  van Abel, mentions in a podcast: “If you want to  

  • create a fair phone you have to create world peace  first.” Abel goes on to addIf you want to change  

  • the system, by becoming part of the system, that  means that you're going to be dictated by the same  

  • system.” Fairphone is doing the best it can in  an inherently unethical capitalist imperialist  

  • system, which necessitates low wages, ignoring  environmental destruction, and exploits the  

  • Global South in order to extract maximum profitProfit which gets shoved into the pockets of the  

  • owning class or funneled back into companies  to fuel endless growth in a finite world. Don't  

  • get me wrong, the Fairphone is definitely one of  the best options if you need to buy a new phone,  

  • but the point here is this: capitalism has now  successfully blended the idea of consumerism  

  • with an activist identity, espousing a false  narrative that buying ethical clothes or green  

  • phones is the way to stop the climate crisis and  worker exploitation. The reality is a far cry  

  • from this illusion. First, the most sustainable  phone is the phone you have in your pocket, which,  

  • to their credit, Fairphone repeats again and again  in their videos and blog posts. While Fairphone  

  • did raise wages for their workers, they still have  to operate in our current economic system, which  

  • means that some amount of value of the labor being  produced from Fairphone employees and supply chain  

  • workers is being siphoned off to investors and  the owner class. If systemic change doesn't occur,  

  • Fairphone will forever be fighting against  the current. For the time being, Fairphone  

  • is helping encourage people to care about  quality, repairability, and ethical practices.  

  • It's a lightning rod for companies and consumers  to point at and say, “hey we can do better.” As  

  • Miquel notes, the phone is anan artifact for  change.” But in my opinion, to truly create a  

  • fair phone we need to collectively envision an  economic system outside of capitalism. One that  

  • leans on degrowth and eco-socialist principles  and that allows workers to be fully compensated  

  • for the value of their labor and accounts for  its environmental impact. The only way towards  

  • this is through movement building, mutual aidand true collective democracy. Fairphone shows  

  • that there's a better way within. It shows us  there's a way to build and create technologies  

  • with an emphasis and longevity and ethics rather  than quick turnarounds and profits. But it seems  

  • like they are reaching the edge of capitalismso to find the new frontier, to find a place  

  • where Fairphone doesn't have to swim upstream  just to be fair, we have to build a new system.

  • Two weeks ago I released a video about  Eco-Fascism. It initially did really well,  

  • and lots of people were sharing it aroundbut then views started to plateau and it was  

  • slapped with an unsuitable for most ads labelIn short, the video was buried. Which is one of  

  • the reasons why a bunch of creator friends  and I teamed up to create a platform where  

  • we can make content without having to worry  about pleasing the YouTube algorithm. It's  

  • called Nebula and we're thrilled to be partnering  with Curiosity Stream. Nebula is an ad-free video  

  • streaming platform that allows creators to create  without worrying about views or demonetization.  

  • Nebula has exclusive content from a wide range  of educational YouTubers like Polymatter,  

  • Wendover Production, and Me. That's right, when  you sign up for Nebula and CuriosityStream,  

  • you'll get access to both the full length  interviews I did with Fairphone for this video.

  • But what does this have to do with  CuriosityStream? Well as the go to  

  • streaming platform for thousands of top  tier documentaries, including a number  

  • of great movies about climate change like  Earth's Survival, Curiosity Stream loves  

  • supporting educational creators. So we worked out  a deal where if you sign up with the link below,  

  • not only do you get access to CuriosityStream, but  you'll also get Nebula for FREE. And this is not  

  • a trial, you'll have Nebula as long as you'reCuriosityStream member. And in an exclusive deal,  

  • Curiosity Strean is offering 26% off their annual  plan - that's less than $14.79 a year for BOTH  

  • CuriosityStream and Nebula. By signing up, you  not only directly support Our Changing Climate,  

  • but you gain access to thousands of documentaries  and exclusive Our Changing Climate content.

  • So if you want to support both Our Changing  Climate and hundreds of other educational  

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  • up for Curiosity Stream and Nebula for  just $14.79 per year, that's 26% off.

  • Hey everyone, Charlie here. Thanks so much for  watching all the way to the end! If you've already  

  • signed up for CuriosityStream you can also support  me by becoming an Our Changing Climate Patreon.  

  • Just pledging one dollar a month gives  me the financial stability I need to keep  

  • making more videos like this. Thanks again  for watching and I'll see you in two weeks.

Out of the mines of conflict, an awareness  campaign was born. One that sought to change the  

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Is This the Most Sustainable Smartphone?

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    joey joey posted on 2021/06/13
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