Forum for the Future worked with Telefónica O2 UK to develop the UK’s first scheme rating mobile phones on their sustainability.

It launched in O2’s UK stores in August 2010 and Telefónica Germany introduced it as Eco Index in May 2011. Telefónica plans to roll it out to further countries.

Eco rating scores handsets out of five according to their environmental impact, how they help people lead more sustainable lives and the ethical performance of the manufacturer. It launched in O2’s UK stores in August 2010 and Telefónica is currently considering how the wider group could adopt it.

The scheme is designed to help customers take sustainability into account when choosing a new mobile, to encourage healthy competition between handset manufacturers to drive up standards, and to help the industry understand the role it can play in creating a sustainable future.

“We know that sustainability is important for many of our customers and for the first time they will have the whole picture from which to make a full and balanced purchasing decision.”

Ronan Dunne, O2’s UK Chief Executive

The project started in August 2009 after research by O2 found a demand from customers for information about the sustainability of their handset – the whole picture and not just one or two elements of environmental performance.

Forum and O2, working in close collaboration with handset manufacturers, developed a simple rating system that would make fair comparisons between different types of handset to reward and encourage innovation. Eco rating combines benchmarking of handsets with life cycle thinking, and uses transparent, robust and non-contentious measures to do away with the need for detailed technical data.

Customers see a rainbow label in stores indicating the sustainability rating of all phones participating in the scheme – more than 90% of those stocked by O2. This is the in-store pricing ticket for the highest ranking phone at launch, the Sony Ericsson Elm:

 

Eco rating looks at the overall impact of the device over its lifespan and consists of a product assessment and a corporate assessment. The scheme examines the raw materials the handset contains; the impacts caused by its manufacture; its packaging; its longevity; and how easy it is to reuse or recycle.

The product assessment includes the functionality of handsets and rewards phones which help people lead more sustainable lives: for example by replacing the need to own a separate camera or music player, or by providing software to plan journeys by public transport or on foot.

The corporate assessment takes into account the sustainability performance of manufacturers: including labour standards in the supply chain, safety and environmental principles, social inclusion and community programmes, and carbon and water management. For further details about the methodology used, please click on the O2 Eco rating brief in Project Downloads on the left hand side.

An important part of the project was the confidential discussions Forum held with major manufacturers to develop the Eco rating methodology: HTC, LG, Nokia, Palm, RIM, Samsung and Sony Ericsson.

Their input into the development of the Eco rating methodology was invaluable. And we believe that our questions and thoughts have helped to further their internal sustainability initiatives.

The Eco rating methodology will continue to develop because as new handsets with new functions come to market, the sustainability issues the industry faces change too. As best practice transfers into ‘business as usual’, what represents sustainability excellence today will no longer represent excellence in 24 months. This is why Telefónica O2 UK has committed to enabling others to adopt the methodology after embedding the methodology further across the group.

For more information contact Ilka Weissbrod or James Taplin.

To download the report, please click the link to the right-hand side.

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