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Technology and social impact converge in this smart phone, changing the way devices are made and sold

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Technology and social impact converge in this smart phone, changing the way devices are made and sold.

These days it seems like everyone needs a smart phone to stay up to date and connected. Yet have you thought about where this essential tool—always in your pocket or in your hand—comes from?

FairPhone is a smart phone with a conscience. Running Android software, this product is trying to change the way smart phones are made and sold from start to finish: materials, manufacture, operation and disposal.

It starts with the minerals. Forty different minerals are required to build a smart phone, but the mining of those minerals often leads to environmental damage and worker exploitation. Plus, exploitative mining funds rebel groups, leading to conflict and instability. FairPhone sources its tin and tantalum from conflict-free mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in order to encourage ethical alternatives to the problematic mines in operation there. There’s even a downloadable list of suppliers on the website.

FairPhone is also working on designing its product to last longer and be more easily repaired, so that it is disposed of less quickly. Spare parts are offered on its website, and it’s working with iFixit to create repair tutorials.

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Furthermore, it partners with manufacturing facilities that are willing to work on social and environmental performance, aiming for a long-lasting and transparent relationship. Finally, it has partnered with Closing the Loop and started a phone recycling program in Ghana, with the eventual goal of using salvaged materials in FairPhone manufacturing.

This diligence and forthrightness has struck a chord—FairPhone has sold more than 33,000 units so far. Due to unexpected demand, FairPhone sold out in the fall; the next batch will become available this month for €310.

FairPhone is currently only available in the EU (with tentative plans to expand to other non-European countries in 2016). You can check with some of FairPhone’s socially conscious EU resellers, or you can sign up to be notified when it’s in stock.

No endorsement or connection is meant between those featured in this article and Chivas.

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