Sustainability Hotspots Analysis of the Mobile Phone Lifecycle
What are the social and environmental sustainability impacts in the life cycle of your mobile phone? Our analysis suggests that there are small differences between phones when it comes to environmental impact, but more substantial differences in social impact.
The SMART project has done a Hotspots analysis of mobile phones, identifying unsustainable activity in the life cycle of mobile phones. We focused on environmental and social impacts in six main phases in the life cycle of a mobile phone: Design, Resource Extraction, Manufacturing, Transportation, Use and End of Life. The report compares a generic composite mobile phone with the Fairphone 2.
Fairphone was selected as a best practice company, because their main goal is not to sell as many phones as possible, but to create a fair and sustainable lifecycle, while the generic phone is based on the extensive literature review conducted for the development of SMART’s Risk Catalogue.
There are relatively small differences between the composite mobile phone and the Fairphone 2 concerning environmental impact in all life cycle phases. Concerning the social dimensions however, the Fairphone fared better than the generic mobile in most phases. This is especially true for impacts such as working conditions in the extraction, manufacturing and end of life phase, and in the use of conflict materials.
The impacts within each category in every phase of the life cycle is given a score from 0 to 9. The score is a multiplication of the significance of an impact with the salience of the phase with which it is associated.
Hot spot analysis
A hotspots analysis is a qualitative approach to rapidly identify and prioritize social and environmental impacts on sustainability in a product lifecycle. This is not the same as a Life Cycle Assessment, and does not aim to generate new data about the sustainability of a product. Rather Hotspots Analysis offers a method that draws on scientific research and stakeholder inputs to select particular impacts in a product lifecycle as priorities for further research.