What the industry can learn from the Fairphone?

A study by the smartphone manufacturer Fairphone shows that a sensible repair concept in combination with a modular product architecture can have a positive impact on the environmental balance.

CO2 can be reduced through a comprehensive maintenance strategy.
The CO2 footprint is lower due to a longer period of use. Photo: iStock.com/Petmal
  • Longer use of commodities and means of production has a positive effect on the environment in many cases.
  • A comprehensive maintenance concept is the basis for efficient use of resources.
  • The Dutch company Fairphone, together with the Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration IZM, has now published study results that also show a major influence of the service life on the overall carbon footprint.

The Dutch company Fairphone focuses on ethically produced smartphones. These are becoming increasingly popular, which is also due to the modular design of the device. This greatly simplifies repairs, which should enable longer use, which the company also advocates.

Study proves a positive effect of a longer service life on theCO2 footprint over the entire life cycle

The study conducted by the Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration IZM concludes that smartphones should be used for as long as possible and also provides corresponding figures. The researchers found in three different scenarios that the annual carbon footprint of the Fairphone 4 can be reduced by 31% if it is used for five years instead of just three. A usage period of seven years (including changing the battery twice) even shrinks the annual emissions by 44%.

Lower CO2 footprint due to longer use
Influence of the service life on the life cycle assessment - Link to the study

The report shows that the emissions caused by the production of individual spare parts, packaging and shipping of the device to users or a repair centre are offset after just a few weeks of further use of the repaired device. The offer of a five-year warranty extension and guaranteed software support until at least the end of 2025 should create additional incentives for customers.

Of course, this is also a marketing measure and the values determined in this study are only of a theoretical nature. It remains to be seen whether customers actually want to use a smartphone over a period of 5 or even 7 years. However, since many buyers of a Fairphone consciously decide in favour of this product, this is certainly within the realm of possibility.

Irrespective of this, however, the example shows the following:

  • Sustainability goals must become a design requirement for product and service development in the form of appropriate design parameters and limit values.
  • If sustainability goals are transformed into product features, this can create an important differentiating feature that is increasingly becoming a decisive factor in purchasing decisions.

The study also shows that take-back, recycling or reprocessing only lead to a closed cycle when the CO2 balance is also balanced. This offsetting entry should therefore be considered and ensured through appropriate measures.

Source: Fraunhofer IZM press release

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