Environmental Ethos

Environmental Ethos

James Browning, managing director at 20:20

James Browning, managing director at 20:20

Everyone is talking about going green. With obvious changes to the global climate, consumers are the driving force behind the corporate race to reduce emissions, clean up manufacturing and save energy. Part of that is the mobile phone industry, which in 2009 has announced its first ‘green’ handsets, while individual companies have moved towards greener internal policies. Heather McLean investigates.

According to a survey carried out globally by Nokia last year, only 3% of consumers said they had recycled their old phone. Yet very few old devices, 4%, are being thrown into landfill. Instead the majority, 44%, are simply being kept at homes never used. Others people are giving their mobiles another life in different ways, with one quarter of those surveyed passing on their old phones to friends or family, and 16% selling their used devices, particularly in emerging markets.

Yet it is time to act for the mobile industry to improve these figures, says Markus Terho, director of environmental affairs for markets at Nokia. “If each of the three billion people

globally owning mobiles brought back just one unused device, we could save 240,000 tonnes of raw materials and reduce greenhouse gases, to the same effect as taking four million cars off the road.”

 

Tough love

Agreeing, James Browning, managing director at 20:20, adds: “The threat of climate change and the demand that something must be done is a powerful global lobby driving ever tougher legislative action. Our industry is not immune to these pressures and it is better to recognise the early signals and respond to that agenda than to wait until we are forced to act. But more positively, the rise of the ethical consumer means we have to respond to a massive change in retail habits as people demand products which are sound, both environmentally and ethically.

“More and more businesses across all sectors are finding that having real credibility in terms of their approach to sustainability gives them a genuine competitive edge, especially among younger consumers,” emphatically states Browning.

This green movement cannot be avoided, Browning comments: “The demand for sustainable products will affect the mobile industry as surely as it has affected older, more environmentally-damaging industries previously. Those businesses have survived through engaging with this agenda and adapting how they do business. We will learn to do the same. We are already seeing moves to produce devices made from recycled materials, given the huge growth in electrical waste, and methods of powering mobiles through green energy. I can see that trend continuing to the point when all handsets are manufactured from recycled materials and powered by renewable energy.

 

Recycle oldies

“More immediately, I can see the mobile recycling industry taking off,” Browning continues. “There is enormous scope for us to raise the level of mobile phone recycling which currently stands at about one in 20 old phones, especially given the demand for recycled phones in African and Asian markets.”

Simon Walsh, sales and marketing director at ShP, a UK mobile phone recycling for reuse business, comments: “From a business perspective, recycling and learning how to act more sustainable has its costs benefits, while helping lower your impact on the environment. We believe that with the growing trend towards ethical or green consumerism, more and more people and companies want to deal with clients who care responsibly about their actions and how that can have a direct impact on the environment.”

Though Daisy has been an environmentally aware organisation since its inception, the last month has seen a significant increase in activities that reduce the company’s impact on the environment. Working alongside the Carbon Advice Group, Daisy is eradicating its carbon footprint by offsetting its day to day energy outlay from gas, electricity and company car usage.

Chris Burney, head of retail sales at Daisy Communications, adds: “As a rapidly expanding business, it is important we keep our energy expenditure and our carbon footprint to a minimum. There are also tangible results on the bottom line from the associated cost savings. Customer and staff feedback has been a major contributor in the company implementing its green policy, but in addition we also like to think we are being forward thinking and stealing a lead on the inevitable time when the government starts to enforce more environmentally practises across the entire business community.”

ShP has a sustainable policy in place that adheres to limiting paper consumption, encourages recycling of products including ink cartridges, cans and paper waste. It has other measures in place like movement sensitive sensors controlling lighting. The company is also looking at greener energy sources to provide its gas and electricity. Walsh adds: “Our whole business model is based around a green ethos. We offer a complete lifecycle management service for e-waste items, predominately redundant mobile phones and PDA’s.”

Samsung Mobile has a commitment to protect the environment through the design of eco-friendly products, as does Samsung Electronics. Mark Mitchinson, vice president at Samsung Mobile, says: “With our scale we can make a significant and positive impact over the coming years; that is our intention and one of our missions. We also believe that as a technology company we have a responsibility to face the issues of the future for co-prosperity.”

 

Green designs

Samsung Mobile launched its latest environmentally friendly product, the Blue Earth phone, at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last February, alongside Samsung’s vision for environmental sustainability.

Mitchinson comments: “The Blue Earth phone has a solar power for carbon neutral charging, and is also made from plastic recycled from water bottles. The green features don’t end at the hardware; the phone will also come with built in functions to highlight green issues, such as the ‘eco walk’ function which uses an on board pedometer to calculate how much CO2 the user can save by walking rather than driving or taking the bus.”

Other companies noted for their green handsets this year include Nokia, with its 3110 Evolve that has 15% to 20% lower energy consumption during its lifecycle than comparable products. Walsh states: “We’re already seeing many manufacturers and operators looking to act more responsibly to increase recycling and energy consumption. Nokia’s new N76 has many energy saving screen modes and even comes without a charger in the box to encourage existing Nokia users to use their existing Nokia chargers.

“Motorola has released a phone made from recycled materials and there is talk about making a one size fits all phone charger,” continues Walsh. “From working with network operators we know that many are now starting to include recycle bags in new unit boxes to offer a recycling service. We see this as the future direction of the market.”

Jon Lobb, sales director at Talk Me Through It (TMTI), which assists companies in going green by providing tools and solutions to improve efficiencies that leads to green results, such as shrinking box sizes by removing manuals. These moves will reduce the carbon footprint of the logistics side of business, Lobb states: “We all need to have a green conscience, our customers want it and we do need to make changes. The world is changing and those who don’t adopt a green policy will find themselves left behind.”

Samsung is also on the same track with packaging. Mitchinson states: “We have been working to make sure that our packaging is smaller and lighter than ever before, and using as much recycled material as possible. We’re also doing what we can at the other end of the chain, working across the world to set up more sites for people to recycle their old Samsung handsets. These are measures that we believe will ultimately have a big impact on the sustainability of our supply chain.”

Simon Walsh

Simon Walsh, sales and marketing director at ShP, a UK mobile phone recycling for reuse business

 
Enrico Salvatori
Enrico Salvatori, vice president at Qualcomm Europe, and general manager at Qualcomm CDMA Technologies (QCT)
 

Heavy metal

So why is it important to recycle mobile phones, not just by reusing the unwanted, but doing the right thing to those in the scrap yard? Some substances found in mobile phones are hazardous to both the environment and humans, including bromine, chlorine, lead and heavy metals, all of which are found in handsets and have all been linked to a health problems including allergies, birth defects, impaired learning, liver toxicity, and cancer.

Qualcomm’s commitment to responsible and eco-friendly product design has a long history, says Enrico Salvatori, vice president at Qualcomm Europe, and general manager at Qualcomm CDMA Technologies (QCT). He states that Qualocmm began exploring the elimination of lead from its integrated circuit (IC) products in 1999, long before the European Union’s Restriction of Hazardous Substance (RoHS) Directive came into force in July 2006. In 2004, it became one of the IC manufacturers that successfully introduced the lead-free chip level package (CSP) products.

In 2003 it also began prohibiting the use of various hazardous substances (18 substances as of 2008), as well as commencing the Bromine and Chlorine Elimination Program. By designing with bromine-free mould compounds, Qualcomm reduced the bromine content in its Mobile Station Modem (MSM) products by over 70%.

Salvatori adds: “To further our commitment to using environmentally sustaining technologies, we have also developed a roadmap to completely eliminate the use of bromine and chlorine from our IC packages. All new IC products designed from January 2009 onwards will incorporate the bromine and chlorine-free package design strategy. By the end of 2009, over 51% of the total QCT IC product portfolio will be bromine and chlorine-free.”

The last word goes to Mitchinson: “All channels have a responsibility to at least look at their carbon footprint and explore the opportunities around going green. Consumers will expect more from our industry and we owe it to them to do what we can as soon as we can.”

 
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