Can FAIR Phones make the world a better place?

Nowadays there’s a lot of e-waste because many people don’t care or don’t think about what happens if they always buy the latest smartphone. With our project we would like to make people aware of the fact that our resources are limited and we all should think before we buy a new smartphone just because it’s trendy. Through this article we would like to point out the differences between a Fairphone and a Samsung smartphone. For the following comparisons we picked a Samsung Galaxy A3 2017. Also, we want to answer the question if the Fairphone really is better for the environment and if it’s produced fairly.

What we found out

To find out what people know and think about the Fairphone we made a survey in May 2018, which was filled out by 130 people from our school (vocational business school Wetzikon, wkvw.ch).

The first question was what phone the people own. Surprisingly only about five per cent own a Fairphone, 20 per cent have a Samsung and over 70 per cent possess (besitzen) an iPhone (see graphics below).

The survey at our vocational business school shows that only 5% of the participants own a Fairphone.

When asked how old the phone is, over 77 per cent of the participants said that theirs is one to two years old or even newer. Nearly all of them claimed “to be happy” when asked about how satisfied they are with their current phone. Apparently when a new phone gets bought, the most important thing for them is the quality (1), then the price (2), production under fair conditions (3) comes next and surprisingly the aesthetics/brand (4) follows as least important point. The answer to the next question was rather shocking, apparently less than fifty per cent care if their phone can be recycled. From all those 130 people only about 30 per cent have already heard from the Fairphone and about 40 per cent would buy it, but only if the price is reasonable and okay.

So as we can see, there is potential here. A few would actually even consider buying a Fairphone. However, everyone can contribute and help the environment by simply holding on to their phone for a long time, without always buying the newest edition. Also if a new phone gets bought, the old one shouldn’t just be dumped somewhere in the waste. Because if it is returned and brought to the right place, some parts can be recycled or maybe even reused.


What do they want to achieve?

Long-Lasting design is one of the four main goals of Fairphone. Therefore, you can replace parts of the Fairphone easily when something is broken. For example, you can replace the screen or the battery in less than one minute by yourself. All the six modules out of which the Fairphone is built are available in the online shop. The company is fighting against the trend that everyone buys a new phone as soon as it is out even when the old one is working perfectly.

Also they are caring about what they are putting into the phone. They want fair materials that are good for the environment and for the humanity. They are totally against pollution, child labor (Kinderarbeit) and dangerous working conditions. They are aware of where the different parts come from and they try to apply (einsetzen) responsible.

The majority of smartphones is produced in China because the workers there are fast and cheap. Fairphone aims to improve the working conditions. Not only do they pay an appropriate salary but also they improve the safety and health conditions at the working places. Fairphone is member of the Clean Electronics Production Network which tries to ban toxic chemicals in the manufacturing process (Produktionsablauf) of electronic devices.

Their fourth goal is to reuse and recycle. They support recycling programs so that our resources can be used again and again. They try to use as much circular economy as possible. If you have old phones you can send them to the Fairphone Company to ensure that parts of the phone get recycled or at least disposed correctly.

“We aim to create positive social and environmental impact from the beginning to the end of a phone’s life cycle.” – Fairphone [1]

How transparent is the production?

Fairphone wants to know exactly from where the materials are that they use for producing a Fairphone. On their website (fairphone.com) they show a list of their suppliers (Lieferanten, fairphone.com). It’s ten pages long and you can see which material they have from where. You have the name, the address and a direct link to the homepage of the suppliers. They are very transparent from where the resources come from. On an interactive map (open.sourcemap.com) you can explore the supply chain.

On their Instagram account (instagram.com) you find a lot of interesting news about their latest projects. At the moment for example they are helping in Ghana to collect and recycle e-waste because there isn’t any take-back infrastructure. [2]

Instagram post from Fairphone concerning their latest project.
Instagram post from Fairphone concerning their latest project.

Where do they invest their money?

This picture shows really detailed for what they use the money you pay them for a phone. To spread the phone all over the world you must find stores who sell the Fairphone. They take about 120 Euros for their services. The biggest part is used to produce the Fairphone. To make sure that the workers receive enough money and that the resources are renewable and fair costs a lot of money. If they don’t use the whole 340 Euros for the manufacturing and the materials they invest it in social and environmental projects. A part of the money is used for investments. A smartphone has to improve over the time to be up to date.  The 25 Euros for operations are used for basic costs like marketing, sales and administration. In the end there are about 9 Euros profit left. They keep this profit for unexpected costs or additional investments in social projects.

On the Fairphone website you can find for what exactly they need the money even more detailed. [3]

Costbreakdown for a Fairphone 2
Cost breakdown for a Fairphone 2


What is their fundament?

The company believes that strong values are the key to good business. They are very determined (entschlossen) to make sure that all their employers are to reach their full potential by giving them lots of opportunities to fulfill that, since a company is its people.  A passion for excellence drives them to create products that satisfy their customers and provide the needed services. They set their sight on the future, constantly changing and improving their products for a long-term success. Also Samsung operates in an ethical way, always guided by a moral which ensures fairness, respect for all stakeholders and complete transparency.

Samsung, who wants to become one of the world’s top five brands by 2020, also strives to achieve other targets by then, like for example lower their water use intensity as well as the e-waste production.

In order to protect our environment and use resources more efficiently Samsung Electronics wants to focus on circular economy. They aim to reuse and recycle waste, as well as find ways to use fewer resources while producing. Also Samsung wants to make sure that end-of-life products are collected free of charge, therefore enabling the materials to be recycled. As a result less additional natural resources will be needed, the greenhouse gases will decrease, as well as the pollution caused by the waste. Also, the pollution of the soil and groundwater will be prevented. Another way of conserving resources, is by making long-lasting products with a great quality, therefore extending the product life and increasing its durability.

“We aim for a circular economy in which resources are continuously reused.” – Samsung [4][5]

Where do they get their resources?

Samsung operates with approximately 2500 suppliers across the globe. Their supply chain is driven by a philosophy of fairness, openness and win-win cooperation. They prevent risks through helping their suppliers in different topics like the environment, human rights or financials.

Samsung’s management strategy with the supply chains is based on five points that are cost competitiveness, on time delivery, supplier competitiveness, response to risk and human resources capacity. [6]

Samsung’s management strategy with the supply chains
Samsung’s management strategy with the supply chains

Where do they spend their money? [6]

Economic Value Distribution 2016 Euros
Supplier – Procurement costs (Beschaffungskosten) 99 Billion
Local Community – Social contributions (Sozialabgaben) 348 Million
Shareholder/Investor 21.8 Billion
Creditor – Interest expenses (Zinsaufwand) 459 Million
Employee – Remuneration (Arbeitslohn) 6.95 Billion


Costbreakdown from a Samsung Galaxy A3 2017
Cost breakdown from a Samsung Galaxy A3 2017

Fairphone vs Samsung – Technical Details [7][8]

Fairphone 2 Samsung Galaxy A3 2017
Weight 148g 138g
Thickness 10.6mm 7.9mm
Resolution 1080×1920 Pixels 720×1280 Pixels
Battery: Talk time






Price 525 Euros Around 200 Euros


What do we have to say?

Personally, we definitely think that a Fairphone is a good way to take a step in the direction of saving our environment and ensuring that all future generations can still profit from this beautiful earth and its resources. It is quite hard to say if the Fairphone really is better than a Samsung, but during the production process they focus more on fairness and the environment, which is very important. The technical details don’t defer that much, except that the battery of the Fairphone can maintain for more than double the time the Samsung phone does in standby. Of course Samsung has a lot of different phones with newer features and improved technical details, therefore the statement above isn’t accurate for all of their devices.

To sum it all up, the Fairphone might be pricier, however the fairness of the production is ensured and through the exchangeable parts the phone has a longer life-cycle (Lebenszyklus) and less waste gets produced, what clearly is an advantage for our environment.

During our researches we learned a lot of new interesting things about smartphones. Unfortunately we are not allowed to share the Audio record of the webinar with Fairphone but a lot of the information above are also based on this interview. If you are really interested in the production of the Fairphone or you have other questions about the Fairphone we would really recommend taking part in one of the webinars. To find out things about the Samsung we wrote an e-mail because it was more difficult to find information. Sadly, they didn’t answer our mail, leaving us depending on the facts on the internet. During our research we came to the conclusion that it is way harder to find the exact cost breakdown for Samsung.

We are aware that most of our information is only based on the producers homepage, therefore we don’t have proof that everything is entirely honest. However there are lists, links and pictures to support their statements.

All in all we don’t think that we are in the position to say which phone is better. We don’t want to tell the people everyone should buy a Fairphone but we hope that we could inform you about it a little more and make you think about your shopping behavior relating to Smartphones.

Angela T. & Anja R.

Where did we find the information?

[1] Our Goals (fairphone.com)
[2] How We Work (fairphone.com)
[3] Cost Breakdown (fairphone.com)
[4] Philosophy Goals (samsung.com)
[5] Values and Phylosophy (sra.samsung.com)
[6] Supply Chain (samsung.com)
[7] Technical Specifications (support.fairphone.com)
[8] Technical Specifications Samsung (gsmarena.com)

☷ See the project teams here »
☵ Some words about the contributions »

4 thoughts on “Can FAIR Phones make the world a better place?

  1. I really like the idea behind fairphone, but I think they need more marketing if they want to make a impact in the cellphone market as spreading through word of mouth just won’t cut it nowadays. Other than that I don’t see why this product wouldn’t sell as there are many people that are very concious about the labor conditions in mines in africa and want to change the way its workers are treated.

  2. In overall I think it’s a very big step to our future with this invention. This could be a big solving problem, that we never had. Although, there is one problem: The promotion. I’m pretty sure, there are not enough people, who know about this Fairphone. At least I didn’t know it before I’ve read this article. My thought is, we should promote it, by supporting only Fairphone. Furthermore, we should restrict our economic, like set up a new law. Phones should not be produced in wholesale – per order, one phone.
    Very interesting article and well-done research! Thank you, guys.

  3. That’s a really interesting article. You made a profound explanation of what a Fairphone really is. I didn’t know before what a Fairphone is all about. The people behind this try to fight against child labor, which is truly meaningful. Also the facts about fair materials that are being used for saving the environment and for the humanity are great. To conclude my comment, I was looking for an interview, to have a better imagination.

  4. Your post gives me a very good general overview about the topic! It’s interesting to read about the difficulties to get “real information” about the production of a smartphone – even today. I have a HP phone and I gave it a short try to find out how the sustainability of it is. Not easy… I found this revealing link: https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/reports/greener-electronics-2017
    In my opinion to act in a non-sustainable way makes little sense*) and could be mostly avoided these days. So it’s up to the “rule-makers” – should be politics/people – to initiate good/fair rules. Means, harmful or unfair behaviors should have its price ($) and in no case should it pay off (like today in many to most cases).
    Bye & thank you! Nicki

    *) because it makes only “sense” in a very short & particular manner

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