European Business: The Fairphone 2 is now sold out. Has sustainable electronics actually become the industry norm, as mentioned in the headline of the press release?
Ewa Gouwens: We believe that by selling over 175,000 Fairphones a strong signal has been sent to the industry that there is a demand for fairer electronics. However, we aren’t seeing a firm change in mindset in the electronics industry. Phones are being built for shorter life cycles and it's getting harder for the consumer to open or repair their phone by themselves.
Instead of turning away from regions with a high risk of conflict we want to do business in the area where we can have the greatest impact. Ewa Gouwens
European Business: At Fairphone, the focus is on Fairtrade and the procurement of conflict-free materials. Critics describe sourcing conflict-free materials as utopian, how do you manage this anyway?
Ewa Gouwens: Fairphone was founded out of an awareness campaign against conflict minerals in electronics, so our initial focus was on finding more responsible sources of the four defined conflict minerals – tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold. Instead of turning away from regions with a high risk of conflict we want to do business in the area where we can have the greatest impact. We work together with partners like Solution for Hope, who developed the first closed pipe supply chain for tantalum, originating from Katanga in the DRC. We were the first phone company to join the Conflict Free Tin Initiative, a program which showed that it was possible to source tin from conflict-free validated mines in the DRC and also integrated Fairtrade gold into the supply chain as an industry first.
European Business: 150,000 fairphones have already been sold. How can you put a final end to Fairphone's story?
Ewa Gouwens: Fairphone is now preparing for its next big steps, focusing on its product roadmap and the development of a new product. A few Fairphone 2 devices are still available from our partners and we have one remaining batch of refurbished units back in stock – when those are sold it will mark the end of Fairphone 2 sales. However, this does not mean the end of support for the Fairphone 2. We’ve stockpiled spare parts with the purpose of having them available for a minimum of three years after the last Fairphone 2 is sold so you can keep on maintaining your phone. We are also working on maintaining the further development of the software on the Fairphone 2, with the aim to keep offering security and bug fixes.
Interview: Markus Büssecker | Pictures: Fairphone