Bas van Abel

Founder / Chief Executive Officer
I am passionate about changing the relationship between people and products. By opening up the design processes behind everyday things, I believe that people can re-engage and become active owners of their stuff. This was the inspiration on which I based the model for Fairphone, with which we are opening up systems on a step-by-step journey to making the world’s first fairly designed and produced smartphone.
Social Entrepreneurship

This time last year, we were one month into autumn, the season when we projected we would start shipping our first phone. About 20,000 people put down 325 euros and had been waiting up to five months for their – crowdfunded – first edition Fairphone.

Now, exactly one year later, there are over 50,000 Fairphone owners across Europe. All orders have been shipped, and there are fewer than 8,000 phones left in our online shop.

This has truly been one of the most intense times in many people’s lives here at Fairphone, and I can say for a fact that it has affected mine significantly. Last year brought a variety of emotions to my doorstep. I was positively blown away that so many people were willing to take this journey with us. I was thrilled and moved, but also terrified. In fact, to be honest, the period between June and December 2013 (before we started shipping), when we had your money in our account and your trust on our shoulders, was both the best and the worst time of my life!

The responsibility of producing a product with so many partners and so much ambition, along with so much momentum from a wonderful, powerful crowd has been inspiring and stressful in equal measure.

But we managed and we came out stronger. All of us. You helped us with your support and patience and in turn, we managed to get this engine running and the plane off the ground.

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Fairphone customer support team by the Amsterdam IJ.

In concrete terms, we sourced tin and tantalum from conflict-free mines in the DRC, started a worker-controlled Welfare Fund at our manufacturing location in China, contributed to an e-waste collection scheme in Ghana, and of course, produced our first-ever Fairphone.

Takeoffs always require the most energy, and now that we’re flying, it feels like the beginning of an epic journey. With the team we are building and the community of people actively involved in making this work, I strongly believe that we can drive change for the better, together.

That’s why I’d like to take the opportunity to talk about how Fairphone sees the next few years as well as to share some of the decisions we have made, as we get ready for the next leg of our adventure. We expect this post about our strategy will generate plenty of questions from you, our community. We’ll attempt to address them all in an upcoming series of blog posts that look at specific aspects of what we’re working on and what it means for our future.  With our team, our partners and your support, I believe we can continue paving the way to a fairer economy.

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Bas, CEO, and Sean, Chief Sustainability Officer, visiting our production partner in China.

Remaining committed to our vision and mission

Before we get to the future, let’s rewind to the beginning to make sure we are all on the same page:

Fairphone’s vision is a fair economy. We foresee a world where consideration for people and the environment is a natural part of doing business.

Our mission is to create momentum to design this future. We started by making a phone to uncover production systems, solve problems and use transparency to invite debate about what’s truly fair. We want to continue expanding this platform to give a voice to consumers who care about social and environmental values as well as further develop the market for ethical products. We believe that these actions will motivate the entire industry to act more responsibly.

This is where we still are. Our business model hasn’t changed, nor has our product focus – we will still concentrate on phones, and won’t branch out into other consumer electronics like laptops or tablets. We believe there is a lot to do to get one product right and will commence in 2015 to measure the social and environmental impact we are creating through our activities.

But some things have significantly changed in the past year. Thanks to you, we are a healthy social enterprise, independent from external investors, and we have the ability to invest. We have been able to make some successful interventions in the value chain, engaging with stakeholders, and learning from the many experiences we’ve had in the last year.

In other words, we have the same ambitions, but now we have more capacity, more credibility and greater shared knowledge. So, how will this influence our next steps? How do we want to grow?

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The first Fairphone started its pre-orders in May 2013. Delivery began in December.

Designing a fair supply chain, developing a new Fairphone

As of today, we have fewer than 8,000 Fairphones left in our online shop. Once these sell out, that brings the total to 60,000 Fairphone owners worldwide – an accomplishment I’m extremely proud of. The first edition Fairphone was created by developing an upgraded version of a licensed design. It allowed us to quickly start producing a quality phone, raise funds and focus on specific social and environmental interventions, but it also meant that our influence on the selection of components within the phone was limited.

Which leads us to our announcement – we have hinted at it in the past, but we are now ready to confirm that, yes, we will be making a new Fairphone in 2015. For the new phone, we want to move towards even greater transparency in the supply chain to better enable us to extend our social and environmental impact. This means taking the jump and making our own original design.

Moving away from a licensed model and developing our own mechanical design and engineering will enable us to go deeper into the supply chain and give us more visibility into who produces key components, under what conditions and with which materials.

It will allow us to have more influence on supplier selection, helping us to build relationships with new production partners who share our values. Finally, it will improve our ability to innovate on longevity, repairability and recyclability in the design of the phone itself. By making this step, we mean to attract businesses that believe in our model and our mission, and together want to challenge the status quo.

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Team members during a strategy workshop.

Upcoming series of blog posts

This choice will trigger some additional consequences, which we will be sharing with you in the coming weeks and months. Just a few of the topics we’ll cover include:

  • Our design and manufacturing partners
  • Supplier selection
  • Software development
  • Phone’s industrial and mechanical design

Some decisions have already been made and the various aspects are moving forward, but building a new phone is far from quick!

We plan to start pre-orders of the next device in mid-2015. We will first launch in Europe, hoping to expand thereafter in 2016 to other countries.

So only if you need a phone and would like to own a Fairphone, it makes sense to order one of the current Fairphones while supplies last. Indeed, these are the last first edition Fairphone models that will be produced!

There is so much to share, and I’m excited to take you along on this next phase of our journey. If you have any questions about our strategy, please leave a comment below. But if you’re eager to learn more about the specs and practical information about the next phone, I’d like to ask for your patience. We will go into more detail in future blog posts as we have more information, but as usual, we’re addressing things one step at a time.