I love this ambitious, heartfelt and smart effort to create the world's first modular and ethical mobile phone. The folks at Fairphone are doing some good work. You need to check out what they are doing if you haven't seen it.
And yet...the experiment also is showing what wins when System 1 (our quick, emotional brain) and System 2 (our deliberate, thoughtful brain) compete. See Thinking Fast and Slow. Reviews for the Fairphone 1 and 2 are complimentary of the technology and responsibility, but in the kind of way that your friends talk to you about someone they are setting you up with.
"They are really...nice."
You know something is up. And with the Fairphone, something is up. They are endeavoring to do something bold. Actually they are pioneering two innovations in one: modularity itself is a challenge both technically and for the consumer; and ethical supply chains for all the metals and minerals in phones is a heavy lift. Certifying sourcing amidst cultures and languages that are not your own. Areas and people that have abused and ignored for decades. That is very important and treacherous work.
Source: Motherboard published photo of workers at a conflict-free Fairphone tungsten mine in Rwanda. Image: Fairphone
As with many "green" or "sustainable" products, they swing the pendulum so far to the responsible, they neglect the functional. We say to clients, make it better, not just greener (to quote the book Green Giants). Unfortunately, if you just make it greener and not better, the market is small and the effect minimal.
Still, I applaud their pioneering work and hold them up as a fascinating, important and hopeful case of how business can be a source of great hope.
I plan for my next phone to be a Fairphone.