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Circular Wonderings is an exploration of the role of digital, software and technology in the Circular Economy. Exploration is the key word here. I write regularly, reflecting on my current thoughts and research. Expect typos, incomplete thoughts, varied rambling topics and (hopefully) a journey towards clearer understanding and insight. Subscribe here to join my journey.

Champions of circular change

Fairphone[1] is one of my favourite companies. One reason I like them is that they told me not to buy one one of their phones.

OK, what their marketing actually says is: buy one of their phones, but only when you really need a new phone.

This is one great demonstration of what makes them different. Their mission is to change an industry, not just join the hamster wheel of making and selling more and more devices.

Rather than getting angry[2] they are stepping up to tackle one of the toughest challenges in business and society today.

"From the earth to your pocket, a smartphone’s journey is filled with unfair practices. We believe a fairer electronics industry is possible. By making change from the inside, we’re giving a voice to people who care."[3]

That mission is unbelievably complex.

For example, there are about 40 raw materials in their smartphones. That's 40 globally spanning supply chains. And they want to tackle the huge problems across each?

Crazy!

But also inspiring.

And full of opportunities. Opportunities for their business, as well as opportunities to create systemic change.

One of the most morally wrong and emotive examples of problems hidden deep in the supply chain, is the exploitation of young children in cobalt mines[2]. That is a problem created by our blindness to the unintended consequences of our business models. I mean, imagine what its like when forcing an 8 year old to slave in manual labour being your best choice in life?

Fairphone are one of the drivers behind the Cobalt fair alliance[4]. An initiative that might offer a chance for our smartphone batteries to be tainted with a little less guilt. 

As well as an honest and ambitious look at the supply chain, Fairphone have completely redesigned the smartphone concept.

Their phones are designed to be fixed & upgraded.

I know, it's a mind lowing concept </sarcasm>.

They are modular a and get a perfect score iFixit score for repairability[5]. So, instead of buying a new phone every 5 seconds to keep up with your social media posts, you can purchase an upgraded camera and replace it yourself.

That is a real differentiator for their business and is better for the owner of that phone.

Fairphone say: "Our core value of longevity is designed directly into our smartphones. We created the Fairphone 3 to last – both in its original design and in making the repair as easy as possible."

That is the Circular Economy in action.

One of their internal KPIs is a measurement of how long a device stays in use. Longer is better. (It would not surprise me to discover the larger names in smartphones have exactly the opposite measurement.)

All of those things are why Fairphone are one of my favourite companies.

Now imagine being a software engineer in a company like that. You'll be asked to deliver user experience the can rival the multi-nationals and do it on a device that is unlike any other. You'll be asked to innovate supply chain tracking and measure KPIs in a way no one has done before. You'd be working on problems that are complex and rewarding in a way that few other businesses can offer.

Sounds like fun to me!

 


[1]: https://www.fairphone.com/
[2]: https://happyporch.com/circular-wonderings/posts/2021/february/righteous-anger/
[3]: https://www.fairphone.com/en/story/
[4]: https://www.theimpactfacility.com/commodities/cobalt/fair-cobalt-alliance/
[5]: https://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/Fairphone+3+Teardown/125573