O2 launches UK’s first eco mobile rating scheme

With 44% of consumers saying environmental factors would have an influence on their mobile phone purchase, O2 has launched eco rating, the UK’s first sustainable rating system for mobile phones.

The Sony Ericsson Elm tops the list of 65 mobile phones from six manufacturers, rated 4.3 out of five. The scores reflect the environmental impact of a mobile phone, how it helps people lead more sustainable lives and the ethical performance of the manufacturer. They will be published online and in O2 stores from this week.

Eco rating has been developed in partnership with independent sustainability experts Forum for the Future, in close collaboration with handset manufacturers. It’s a key initiative within O2’s Think Big sustainability programme and part of its commitment to bringing sustainable products and services to its customers.

There are 1712 mobile phones being replaced every minute in the UK, and 4.1 billion mobile phones in circulation worldwide, with a combined carbon footprint over their lifetime of more than 100 million tones. That’s the equivalent of taking every car and HGV in the UK off the road and grounding domestic flights for a year.

Eco rating’s scoring system is based on data supplied by manufacturers. It looks at the overall environmental impact of the device over its lifespan: the raw materials it contains; the impacts caused by its manufacture; its packaging; its longevity and energy efficiency; and how easy it is to reuse or recycle.

It considers the functionality of handsets, and highlights devices which help people live more sustainable lives, for example by replacing the need to own a separate camera or music player, or by providing software to plan journeys by public transport or on foot. It also takes into account the ethical performance of manufacturers including labour standards in the supply chain, safety and environmental principles, social inclusion and community programmes, and carbon and water management.

By highlighting the social and environmental impacts of mobile phones and celebrating the best, O2 hopes to encourage healthy competition from the handset manufacturers to drive up standards and help the wider industry understand the role it can play in creating a sustainable future.

“We know that sustainability is important for many of our customers and for the first time they will have the whole picture from which to make a full and balanced purchasing decision,” said Ronan Dunne, O2’s UK chief executive. “Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the social and environmental impact of the technology they buy and we believe this kind of product transparency will help empower them to make greener choices.”

Peter Madden, chief executive of Forum for the Future, said: “Billions of people worldwide are using mobile phones to organise their lives. We want to reward manufacturers who make efforts to reduce their environmental impacts and think creatively about how their devices can contribute to a better world.”

“We are very proud that five out of the top 10 models in the rating come from Sony Ericsson and that our GreenHeart model Elm is leading the pack,” says Mats Pellbäck Scharp, head of sustainability at Sony Ericsson. “Of all attempts to compare environmental performance, we believe this rating system gives consumers the clearest picture on the environmental impact of their phone.”

Eco rating joins a number of initiatives from O2 designed to bring environmental products and services to its customers. O2 pioneered the SIM-only market, offering its best value deals to customers who choose not to upgrade to a new handset each year and two million handsets are now on the O2 Simplicity tariff. The cut in carbon emissions is equivalent to taking 3700 cars off the road each year, assuming these customers would have upgraded their handset without the tariff.

Last year O2 launched O2 Recycle which has to date paid out over £7 million to customers recycling their old mobile phones. O2 also brought to market the Sony Ericsson Naite, the first of the manufacturer’s Greenheart range of mobile phones which had a 15% reduced carbon footprint.