Working with O2, independent, non-profit organisation Forum for the Future has developed the UK’s first sustainable rating scheme for mobile phones.
The Eco rating scores handsets out of five according to their environmental impact, how they help people lead more sustainable lives and the ethical performance of the manufacturer.
The scheme is designed to help customers take sustainability into account when choosing a new mobile, to encourage healthy competition between handset manufacturers to drive up standards and to help the 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.
The Eco rating system looks at the overall impact of a device over its lifespan and consists of a product assessment and a corporate assessment. The scheme examines the raw materials the handset contains, the impacts caused by its manufacture, its packaging, its longevity and how easy it is to reuse or recycle.
The product assessment includes the functionality of handsets and rewards phones that help people to lead 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.
The corporate assessment takes into account the sustainability performance of manufacturers, including labour standards in the supply chain, safety and environmental principles, social inclusion and community programmes and carbon and water management.
To develop the Eco rating methodology, Forum for the Future held confidential discussions with mobile phone manufacturers HTC, LG, Nokia, Palm, RIM, Samsung and Sony Ericsson.
The Eco rating methodology will continue to develop because, as new handsets with new functions come to market, the sustainability issues the industry faces will change.
O2 is setting up a forum to examine how to improve the methodology, which is likely to include representatives of the handset manufacturers, consumers, non-government organisations (NGOs) and network operators. O2 anticipates having the first stakeholder forum at the beginning of 2011.
In the meantime, customers on the look-out for a new phone will see a rainbow label in stores indicating the sustainability rating of all phones participating in the scheme – more than 90 per cent of those stocked by O2.