Phone Co-op brings first ethical smartphone to UK market

The sustainably designed Fairphone boasts a range of powerful features and strong environmental credentials

The Phone Co-op has become the UK’s first provider of the Fairphone, an ethically manufactured smartphone built using conflict-free minerals and repairable parts.

Working with the Conflict-Free Tin Initiative and the Solutions for Hope Tantalum Project to source minerals in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Fairphone team hopes to provide alternatives for miners in conflict-affected regions where militia have seized many of the valuable mines.

“Fairphone’s initiative raises awareness of important issues about the supply chain for products we use every day,” said Vivian Woodell, chief executive of The Phone Co-op, the UK’s only consumer-owned mobile phone operator.

“This partnership brings together two of Europe’s most radical and dynamic social enterprises – organisations with shared values – to make a difference in our industry.”

The unique Android handset, which began as a crowdfunding project and is now produced in a factory with a worker-controlled welfare fund, features two sim card slots, 16GB of expandable storage, a quad-core 1.2Ghz processor, a 4.3 inch qHD touchscreen, and an eight mega pixel camera.

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Unlike other smartphone brands, owners of the Fairphone can also replace the removable battery themselves, extending the life of the handset and reducing waste.

While other phone manufacturers, such as Apple and Nokia, have already launched initiatives to enhance their sustainability credentials, the social enterprise behind the Fairphone believes there’s a demand for a smartphone that makes ethical standards its key selling point.

“We are proud of what we, together with our customers, are achieving by sending a message to politicians and manufacturers that we care about how phones are made,” said Woodell.

The Fairphone is currently available from £22 a month through The Co-operative Mobile and from £21.50 a month, excluding VAT, through The Co-operative Business Telecoms. The handset can also be purchased outright and used with other networks. The Phone Co-op is a partner of Positive News.