October 19, 2022

The best way to make mobile phones more sustainable is to give them a longer life

The world needs to lower carbon emissions and businesses must contribute. Giving smartphones a longer life and a «safe death» is a good way to start.

The best way to make mobile phones more sustainable is to give them a longer life

Companies of all sizes have begun to pay more attention to sustainability and the environment.

Although smartphones are probably not the dominant part of your company’s environmental and climate footprint, companies must start where they can. 

The single biggest factor

A report from Deloitte concludes that a brand-new smartphone generates an average of 85 kilograms in emissions of CO2 or CO2 equivalents in its first year of use. 95 % of this comes from the manufacturing processes, including the extraction of raw materials and shipping.

Emissions may be lower depending on the amount of recycled material the producer uses, how energy-efficient the manufacturing facilities are, and also how heavily the manufacturing ecosystem relies on renewable energy. One way for companies to contribute is to choose smartphones from producers that pay attention to these details. But there’s more to be done.

Says Deloitte: Because manufacturing accounts for almost all of a smartphone’s carbon footprint, the single biggest factor that could reduce a smartphone’s carbon footprint is to extend its expected lifetime.

Fortunately, several trends indicate that smartphone lifetimes may indeed be growing longer. Smartphones are becoming physically tougher, software support is getting extended, and consumers appear to be keeping their phones for longer. Research from Kantar shows that across EU’s five largest economies, the time consumers keep their smartphones increased by 2.8 months from March 2019 to March 2021 (2.4 in the USA). However, with the smartphone being the world’s most popular consumer electronics device, adopting a holistic approach to the life-cycle of these devices is still far more sustainable than any alternative regime.

How to prolong the life

It has become an art form to calculate how long a new smartphone can stay secure and safe and deliver the necessary performance for a company, and how old a smartphone can be while still remaining interesting for second-hand customers. Thus, extending the total life expectancy of a smartphone is partially a question of finding the optimal balance between these different markets.

But no matter how long-lived a phone gets, it will eventually become obsolete. Given how much rare earth metals and minerals modern smartphones contain, proper handling of these «dead phones» will be imperative to succeed with the green shift. In 2021, some 57 million tonnes of electronic waste were discarded. In context, this is about the same as the weight of the great wall of China. 

Up until some years ago, it was not considered economically feasible to recycle many of the materials used in smartphones, but this has changed to some extent. Still, the amount of electronic waste that is collected and recycled is estimated to be less than 20 %, with hundreds of millions of smartphones lying around in people’s drawers and cabinets.

The system does it for you

However, performing such calculations, finding the right buyers and doing all the work connected to maximising all of the other benefits of a holistic lifecycle approach, is not something most companies have the resources for. 

This is why Techstep has developed Lifecycle, which is a well-established system for helping companies do exactly this – in a manner that makes it incredibly easy for your company. 

Our software provides better lifecycle management of your equipment, providing repair, service and return procedures that give mobile devices a longer life overall:

● Our partners, policies and processes ensure that we can help reduce your company’s overall environmental impact. 

● Our solutions gives your employees greater flexibility, more freedom of choice and better processes, making them more productive and satisfied. 

● Our innovative procedures, good management tools and efficient use of the mobile units reduce overall costs for your company.

Sustainability and lifecycle thinking on the rise

A survey done by PwC Norway shows that 87% of large companies have defined one or more KPIs to assess their progress toward sustainability. Much remains to be done in achieving their goals, however – only 53% had done that. 

Still, in a recent international survey conducted by Gartner, 87% of executive leaders state that they expect their investment in sustainability initiatives to increase over the next two years – and that sustainability is being used as a mechanism to cope with business disruption. That same survey also concluded that investment in partnerships and innovation that drive sustainability can enable enterprise growth. So which KPIs for sustainability has your company defined?

Techstep Lifecycle ensures that your employees will have a functioning smartphone at all times, that your old smartphones can achieve a new and longer lease of life in the second-hand market, and that you can do this in the most economical way possible. 

In other words: We are ready to help you use those smartphones to do smart things – sustainability work included!

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