Can you buy an Ethical Mobile phone?

I was in the market for a new smart phone. Is there such thing as an ethical, environmentally friendly phone? 

So my old phone was getting a bit shitty. And by that I mean it was smashed to pieces and starting to lack the ability to function. Thanks mountain biking for your help with this!!

I had a Motorola and it was serving me well, as budget smart phone of the year it did its job and at a really neat price tag. So, do I go for the next model, I mean it was cheap what can be the downside?

I was struggling to know what to do, my heart will always tell me to seek the most ethical, sustainable and environmentally friendly option. But with technology, phones and laptops and what not it’s safe to say the performance and price tag have been the overriding factors influencing my purchase. Is there such thing as an environmentally friendly mobile phone?

What can you do?

Going second hand with everything is always a great way of
purchasing with respect for the environment. There is simply so many things in the world already made, and we don’t need to make more. All the stuff already made ends up being dumped, and if you didn’t know we as a society create an awful lot of waste! I could go on forever about the benefits of second hand but I think this will end up being a topic on it’s own.

Where was I…….

……..So yeah second hand is always a good option and you get
the benefit of getting things at a much more affordable price.

You can also recycle your old phone, there are quite a few places which offer this service now including Oxfam and of course fairphone who will give money off a fairphone when you trade in your old mobile, whatever brand it is.

Aside from second hand though I didn’t really know where to start at finding an ‘environmentally friendly’ smart phone. I knew about the fairphone which is a great company making the most sustainable, eco friendly phones on the market.

They use recycled products, ethical working standards – unlike many tech companies! Work to reduce their waste and you can replace parts of that phone, so when accidents inevitably happen you can replace and fix the phone so much easier with recycled parts. No need for a new phone or a crazy price tag to get it fixed. Making the fairphone the only smart phone ever to be awarded a perfect reparability score.

Did I mention they are the only smart phone company to integrate Fairtrade gold into their supply chain!

So this kind of feels like a no brainer, it’s a company offering something that no other smart phone manufacturer can – its ethical.

The down side for me was that all that awesome ethical stuff comes at a pretty stellar price tag. Or at least for me it does. The fairphone retails at £420 a totally reasonable price considering they are pioneers in the smartphone market. But that price tag was enough to put me off, especially considering that the actual phones performance isn’t meant to be anything special.

So if you want to shop ethically for phone is there another more affordable option?!

Lets address why I wanted to source an ‘ethical’ phone in the first place.

There are two main issues when it comes to technology;

  1.         Conflict minerals 

All the components needed to make devices requires loads of raw materials, particularly metal elements which are sourced in areas like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a place where mining for such materials has funded brutal conflicts for years.

Policy maker have described conflict materials with the term 3TG: tantalum, tin, tungsten and gold, a legislation which may need updating since the mining f cobalt was linked to conflict in the DRC too.

Addressing conflict materials is difficult, in the past measures have caused companies to avoid sourcing the materials from DRC but that this lead to greater impacts on the lives and livelihoods of the people Now it is suggested that companies should continue to source materials from the region to support conflict free mineral trade. But it isnt easy for companies to guarantee their products are sourced ‘conflictfree’, thanks to the complex supply chain making tracing the origin of materials really difficult.

Of course the fairphone are pioneering methods to ensure that their products are sourced conflict free. Despite his they have failed to determine the origin of the gold used in their phones. 

2.  Pollution and toxic chemicals

Most companies have a really bad rating for their policies
around phasing out of phthalates, PVC and brominated flame retardants (BFRs). The use of harmful materials definitely need improving. 

Along with these two main issue with the mobile phone industry there are other issues which need improving, such as the
child labour involved in many mining sites and the environmental impact of their production.

 Unfortunately we put a huge demand on the creation of new products and in turn this requires lots of raw materials, harmful chemicals, the creation if waste and the production of carbon. Apparently in 2019 the annual climate impact of all EU phone stock was 14.12 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents.

We need to extend the lifespan of mobile phones as a vital way of reducing their impact. The current expected lifespan of smartphones are three using an it was reported that extending this to 4 years for all phones in the EU could save 2.1 million tonnes of CO2 per year. This is the equivalent of taking a million cars of the road!

The Ethical Shopping guide

This is when I found the ethical shopping guide, it’s a great resource which covers pretty much everything from health & beauty to food, fashion, technology and even energy.

On here there is a section on mobile phones which grades mobile phone brands against these categories:


  • – Environmental Report
  • – Nuclear Power
  • – Eco Labels 


  • – Animal Welfare 


  • – Armaments
  • – Code of Conduct 
  • – Political Donations 
  • – Human Rights


  • – Ethical Accreditation 
  • – Other Criticisms

They provide a top, middle or bottom rating against all of the above point which cumulated together give a ‘ethical company index’ for each provider.

I firmly recommend taking a look and using it as a guide for all of your purchases. Whilst I normally look for most ethical/ environmental option of things it usually takes me quite a lot of research. So I will certainly be using this guide from now on.

On the Ethical Mobile Phones Ethical Comparison Table. It was no surprise that the fairphone was proudly sitting at the top. Blackberry were just below with a rating of 92, which admittedly really surprised me and after this was NEC. Well I wasn’t particularly interested in Blackberry’s I don’t think they are the most user friendly and they are expensive and NEC, well I am pretty sure they don’t make smart phones.

Nokia were below this with a I feel a decent score, and after a quick look on their website I was surprised to see they actually have a lot of options, who knew they even made phones still! Plus they were really good and were affordable, I also got the added nostalgic feeling looking back at my first ever Nokia brick phone with a small black and grey display and of course. Snake.

Enter my new phone the Nokia 8.1. Don’t worry this isnt going to be a some tech review, but I am so pleased with it! Its so much better than my Motorola, does everything really well, its fast, with good memory and I don’t give myself a guilt slap every time I pick it up. I found mine refurbished and so had the ultimate bonus of getting a really good phone which didn’t cost a heap of money. 


Let me know what you think!