Mobile World Congress 2017: Can tech go green?

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Early this week, we arrived back at the office after four exhausting but fulfilling days at Mobile World Congress (MWC). My head is still spinning from all the inspiring people we met and non-stop activities we participated in. While everything is still fresh in my mind, I’d like to take a moment to fill you in our experience at MWC and reflect on why we went, what we learned and how MWC can help us spread our mission.

As one of the world’s biggest gatherings for the mobile phone industry, MWC is an event we can’t afford to miss. To give you a brief impression, this year’s event included 108,000 attendees from 2,300+ companies and 208 countries.

We’ve attended MWC in the past, but this was the first time we had our very own booth! We made the most of every minute of the event by participating in side events, doing presentations and hosting a press conference.

All of these activities helped support our goals for attending this major conference: to showcase our modular Fairphone 2, increase awareness for our brand, spread the message of fair electronics, strengthen business relationships and generate new leads. I can confidently say we achieved all this and more.

Sustainability is gaining traction

Mobile World Congress is all about trends, so it was quite remarkable that very few of the world’s biggest phone manufacturers made major announcements. The key talking points were more focused on new technologies like 5G or the growing prevalence of the Internet of Things.

Of course, we were there to talk about fair electronics, and our founder Bas van Abel made our position clear, saying: “MWC is all about trends, and we believe that the next major trend should be sustainability.” And we did everything in our power to make that happen. Our participation in the Mobile Social Congress, NEXTech lab, Mobile Sunday, Urban Mining Workshop and press conference offered great opportunities to share our social mission and point of view.

While sustainability isn’t yet top of mind for lots of the attendees, there was evidence that the topic is gaining more traction. The press is showing increasing interest in the social and environmental aspects of our industry – CNN called it the “greenification of electronics”. And happily, the event organizers and some participants and partners are seeing the importance of sustainability. For example, the UN Sustainable Development Goals were prominently on display in the main hall, and Greenpeace released a report during MWC revealing the impact of 10 years of smartphones.

And following the release of our own research about the recyclability of the Fairphone 2, Dr. Antonio David Dorado’s presentation about recovering valuable metals in mobile phones using microorganisms was a personal highlight for a couple members of the Fairphone team.

Collaboration builds stronger partnerships – Ubuntu, City of Barcelona and more

Attending MWC gave us loads of great opportunities to work closely with partners, get to know them better and take advantage of each other’s networks. For example, at the Ubuntu stand, our partners UBports, showed off the Fairphone 2 running Ubuntu. Our partner Teclib shared our booth for a day to demonstrate their Uhuru Mobile on the Fairphone 2 and security solutions. And the Dutch pavilion run by the Enterprise Summit helped us generate lots of attention from business audiences. Many thanks to iFixit and Fraunhofer IZM who participated in a panel at our press conference.

On the sales side, we were especially excited when the City of Barcelona announced that they will include the Fairphone 2 in their mobile portfolio for senior executives during the event. We also announced partnerships with Mediaworld and Gogreenstore in Italy.

Three cheers for our press team

MWC isn’t only filled with industry experts, it also attracts a ton of journalists – this year’s event was covered by approximately 3,500 members of the international press and media. Our tireless press team put in a ton of effort prior to and during the event to take advantage of this captive audience. Our booth, side events, one-on-one interviews, press conference and press releases resulted in excellent coverage: a total of 475 mentions including 285 full articles dedicated to Fairphone. The journalists primarily highlighted our sustainable approach and modular design, product updates such as upcoming Android 6 release and camera upgrade, and new business partnerships.

Here are a few of our favorites:

TechCrunch: Meet the tiny phone company that’s making modularity sustainable

CNN: Modular Smartphone at Mobile World Congress

Bild.de: Fairphone mit Updates

La Stampa: Fairphone 2, lo smartphone etico presto in Italia con MediaWorld

Le Monde: Le parcours du combattant des « petits poucets » du mobile

See you next year at MWC!

Based on our experience at this year’s event, we’re already excited about attending next year’s MWC and putting the topics of fair electronics and sustainability even higher on the agenda. In the meantime, we’ll be exploring new partnerships (get in touch) and working step by step to keep making positive changes in this massive industry.

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