Understanding the materials in mobile phones

Identifying issues and opportunities for improving material supply chains

We’ve examined 38 materials found in smartphones to understand which offer a high potential for positive change.

Download pdf.

The challenge

The Fairphone 2 contains 40 different elements, and each comes with its own list of social, environmental and health-related issues. To help determine where our efforts could make the biggest difference, we worked with The Dragonfly Initiative to develop a framework to assess 38 of these materials and the associated issues and opportunities. Our materials scoping matrix shows the complexity of all the different factors we considered.

Our approach

While many of the materials evaluated deserve more attention, the findings of our materials scoping study helped us to create a shortlist of 10 materials to examine more closely: tin, tantalum, tungsten, gold, cobalt, copper, gallium, indium, nickel, rare earth metals. These materials are all frequently used in the electronics industry, have a range of mining-related issues, and are not likely to be substituted in the near future. While we certainly won’t be able to improve all these supply chains, these minerals currently represent the most compelling potential to make a lasting impact. We have already set up transparent supply chains for some of these minerals. For the rest, we’ll continue to evaluate options for improvement one material at a time.



Smartphone Material Profiles: opportunities for improvement in ten supply chains

4 May 2017 project update

We partnered with the Dragonfly Initiative to carry out research that would help shape Fairphone’s upcoming materials priorities, improve transparency and consumer awareness, and inspire the rest of the industry to better understand the risks and opportunities. We encourage others to build upon what we have learned, so that together we can improve material supply chains.

Read the report >

Fairphone Newsletter

Get recurring updates on all things Fairphone

Sign up to our newsletter and get €5 off on your next order.

The €5 discount code will be sent by email. The code can be used on any orders from €75. By subscribing you agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy & Cookies Policy. We ask for your name and email so that you can receive our newsletter for awesome Fairphone projects and product updates. You can withdraw or update permission at any time.