We’re notorious for advocating for making mobile phones sustainability information easily accessible to consumers by retailers and manufacturers. While among manufacturers Apple are doing the most to communicate the environmental impact of their devices through product sustainability reports, retailers (network operators in particular) have now upped their game as well.
Earlier this year five European telecom companies including Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefónica (operating under the O2 and Movistar brands), Telia Company and Vodafone have launched Eco Rating scheme which is now available in 26 countries* with further plans to expand it to Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay.
Eco Rating is a scoring system with a purpose to provide consumers at a point of sale of a smartphone with a transparent and consistent sustainability score based on durability, repairability, recyclability, climate and resource efficiency. The maximum overall Eco Rating is 100 and the closer the score of a particular smartphone is to 100, the lower is its impact on the environment.
Relying on the information provided by manufacturers and using the latest EU standards and guidelines (ITU-T, ETSI and ISO) and technical support from IHOBE (a publicly-owned agency specialized in Economic Development, Sustainability and the Environment), new smartphones are assessed against 19 criteria of the key aspects such as durability, recyclability, repairability, climate and resource efficiency and are given a score of out a maximum 100 to communicate their environmental impact across five stages of mobile phone’s lifecycle:
This stage involves sourcing the raw materials for mobile phone’s components. The more recycled materials are used to build a phone, the higher its Eco Rating will be.
The impact of producing each component and assembling them into a final product including packaging and in-box accessories is assessed at this stage to verify carbon emissions and energy consumption which will contribute to the device’s overall Eco Rating.
Eco Rating considers the carbon footprint of shipping the final product to the location of sale.
At this stage Eco Rating factors in durability, upgradability and repairability, as well as energy efficiency during the useful life in the hands of a consumer.
Finally, Eco Rating takes into account the recyclability and the impact of the disposal of the device.
Even though Eco Rating is at its infancy at the moment and so far 80 devices have been rated (the number of devices is going to increase as the scheme grows), the sustainability score can be already found under technical specifications on new devices from the following phone brands:
From the participating network providers present in the UK, O2 and Vodafone display the Eco Rating on smartphones from the above brands. When browsing around ourselves on O2 and Vodafone’s websites, we noticed that the Eco Rating information isn’t very prominent, but the overall score is displayed under specifications on the product pages.
From our own observations, the Eco Rating is very easy to miss in the list of device's specifications and there’s no link or translation of what exactly it means which doesn’t make it transparent enough as the initiative claims. So when shopping for brand new smartphones to fully benefit from information on device's Eco Rating we'd recommend consumers to learn what evaluation aspects are included in the score and look for a device that has its Eco Rating closer to 100. Eco Rating innitiative is a big step forward and something consumers definitely should pay attention to when choosing their next phone.
* Eco Rating is available in the following countries: Albania, Austria, Brazil, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the United Kingdom.
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