July 2, 2022

Think lifecycle to tackle smartphone e-waste and move in a sustainable direction

Mobile phone manufacturers are working towards carbon neutrality, lower emissions and recycling. As a sustainability manager, you can help your organisation make an impact by taking a holistic approach to the lifecycle of your employees’ mobile phones.

Think lifecycle to tackle smartphone e-waste and move in a sustainable direction

Many companies, small and large, are becoming much more concerned about sustainability and the environment.

Last year, a survey published by PwC showed that 87 per cent of Norway’s 100 largest companies had defined one or more KPIs to measure progress and meet sustainability goals.

That is a significant increase from the previous year, when only 63 per cent said the same. There’s still a long way to go – the report indicates that only 53 per cent of the companies have met their targets. 

 

Urgent need 

We can all agree that we must make progress. For Techstep, it has been natural to start with our own area of expertise: smartphones and other mobile devices. 

Firstly, manufacturing these devices leaves a significant footprint on the climate and the environment. Manufacturing one million smartphones creates approximately 62,000 tonnes of CO2, while in 2021 alone smartphone shipments reached 1.4 billion units. At the same time, mining rare minerals and metals such as gold, copper, silver, cobalt and lithium places a heavy burden on landscapes and wildlife. Not to mention the human cost – in the Congo, around 35,000 children are used as labour in cobalt mines, while revenues from minerals such as gold, tin and tungsten help finance armed conflicts. Secondly, the disposal of mobile phones and other electronic waste represents a major challenge. 

There are two things we can do to reduce these challenges. The most effective thing we can do is to extend the lifespan of these devices beyond the current average of about 2–3 years. We can do this through good lifecycle management, repairs, and reuse. This in turn will reduce the need to produce new devices, thus creating less electronic waste and reducing carbon emissions. 

At the same time, it is important to ensure the proper recycling of the devices when they can no longer be used. So that the rare metals and other materials get re-used in the production of new products. According to an estimate from the World Economic Forum, people generated more than 57 million tonnes of electronic waste in 2021 alone – enough to build a new Great Wall of China. Even in Europe, only 12–15 per cent of smartphones are recycled properly, with around 700,000,000 unused mobile phones kept in drawers and cabinets. This is not only environmentally hostile, but it is also a large-scale misuse of resources. Properly recycled, all those unused mobile phones contain close to 15,000 tonnes of rare metals with a market value of around one billion euros.

 

A smart solution that makes a difference

Smartphones may not be the biggest contributor to your company’s environmental and climate footprint, but it is still important start where you can. Taking a holistic approach to the lifecycle of mobile phones makes them far more sustainable than in alternative regimes. At the same time, it can help save internal resources from some tedious, time-consuming, and manual tasks – and free up time for more constructive initiatives.

Techstep SmartDevice is a solution that does just that, and in a way that makes it incredibly simple for your company. Techstep offers software that provides better lifecycle management of your equipment, including repair, service and return procedures, giving your mobile devices a longer life. With partners, agreements, and procedures in place to ensure this, we can help you reduce your company’s overall environmental footprint.

Our solution also provides your company’s employees with greater flexibility, more freedom of choice and better processes, making them more productive and satisfied. Through smarter procedures, good administration tools and more efficient use of equipment, SmartDevice also results in overall lower costs for your company. Something your management will appreciate as well.

Another element is what tools your company chooses to develop and make available to its employees on the powerful computer they always have in their pockets, to improve and streamline internal processes. Or to put it another way: When your company can be certain that not only will employees always have a smartphone but that it will always function as intended, then it is more than time to use smartphones for something smart – including in your company’s sustainability work. 

 

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Erik Haugen Author

Erik Haugen

Chief Transformation Officer i Techstep

All articles by Erik