Fairphone, A Case of Responsible Innovation?


Fairphone, Responsible Innovation?

This week I want to carry on my investigation into Responsible innovation with an example. I think it might express the idea easily, which has been one of its problems. So meet the Fairphone.

I have seen Fairphone described as a responsible innovation, so let’s take a look at its credentials. Anyone who has ever looked into manufacturing practices of our favourite modern technology will know that there is a dark side to its use, from illegal mining, child labour, poor safety records, it is all there. And this seems to be what Fairphone are trying to counteract.

I take the following from the website:


We want to integrate materials in our supply chain that support local economies, not armed militias. We’re starting with conflict-free minerals from the DRC to stimulate alternative solutions.

Sounds like it might address some of the problems noted above.


We’re using design to change the relationship between people and their phones. We’re focusing on longevity and repairability to extend the phone’s usable life and give buyers more control over their products.

With all due respect to a certain company that makes phones that you cannot even change the battery on, I can feel someone turning in his grave!


Factory workers deserve safe conditions, fair wages and worker representation. We work closely with manufacturers that want to invest in employee wellbeing.

Sounds more than reasonable given the bad press that many manufacturers have had in recent years.

Life Cycle

We’re addressing the full lifespan of mobile phones, including use, reuse and safe recycling. We believe that our responsibility doesn’t end with sales.

Given how many are in circulation this must be a priority, and the problem of e-waste is well known.

Here is the publicity blurb:

A smartphone with social values

This quality smartphone lets us open up processes and start a conversation about what is truly fair. From conflict-free minerals to fair factory wages, we’re making improvements one step at a time. Your purchase supports better ways of doing business that aim to inspire the entire industry.

And for those of you who also care about other things:

Introducing the Fairphone 2

5-inch Full HD display with Gorilla® Glass 3

Android​​™​ 5.1 (​Lollipop)

32 GB internal storage​

Expandable storage via MicroSD slot​

Dual SIM

4G LTE/3G/2G

Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 801 platform,​ 2GB RAM​

It looks like a serious piece of kit to me, and if all of the above is true, how could you say no?

The roadmap on the website goes into greater detail, I can certainly recommend a look. You can get a cost breakdown, as well as a financial statement (the project is financially independent). Now I should note that am not paid for this post, neither have I approached the manufacturer, I have never asked for anything from them and am fully independent myself, but I must say that it certainly looks like a fine project to me. They are now taking orders for Fairphone 2, and I am sorely tempted, I would be a hypocrite not to be!

529 Euros. Does that sound reasonable? It is out of my price range I am afraid, but more to the point does it explain what Responsible Innovation might be?