Netherlands-based Fairphone began in 2010 as a campaign to generate awareness around the use of conflict minerals in everyday electronics. In 2013, the campaign formally transitioned into a social enterprise when the company began selling smartphones that were free of conflict minerals. Fairphone has sold over 60,000 smartphones in Europe, is one of the fastest-growing European startups, and has become the first mobile phone manufacturer to achieve B Corp Certification.
Every smartphone contains roughly 40 different minerals, from silver and chromium to the conflict minerals tantalum, tungsten, tin, and gold. Fairphone works directly with suppliers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to source conflict-free tin and tantalum, suppliers in Rwanda to source conflict-free tungsten, and suppliers in South America for fair trade gold.
Fairphone doesn’t stop there, though. In addition to contributing to the creation of a conflict-free mineral supply chain, the company also focuses on workers’ rights (it has started a worker-controlled Welfare Fund at its manufacturing location in China), design (you can purchase spare parts on the company’s website and the company’s blog explains how to fix your phone yourself if it breaks), and product life cycle (Fairphone collaborates with Teqcycle to promote recycling of the product at end of use) to create a more holistically sustainable product. Fairphone is also deeply transparent with its customers, publishing its full list of suppliers and cost breakdowns and detailing its entire process on its website.
Fairphone launched its first product through crowdfunding in 2013, when roughly 20,000 people pre-purchased the first Fairphones for €325 a piece. Fairphone now uses a pre-order model for its products, which helps the company maintain financial independence and prove to suppliers that there is consumer demand for the product prior to production. The company is currently taking pre-orders for the Fairphone 2, the second iteration of the phone, from customers in Europe.