Tuesday, September 30, 2014

iPhone? Ethics in Electronics

Generic mirror selfie with my new iPhone 5c
Almost as bad as jean shopping and swimsuit shopping, shopping for a new cell phone can be quite the daunting experience.

They’re expensive, they tend to always break (perhaps from dropping them one too many times without a fancy case), they don’t do water well (unless a really fancy case exists around it), and yet they are so necessary to the life I lead. Currently my phone provides me with the resources to check my class schedule and see where all my classes are, find out when the bus is coming so I can get to Toronto and back to Hamilton, I can read the Bible, snap fun photos, edit them, then post them to share with friends and family as a little peek into my life since a majority of them live at least 2,000 kilometers away.

While the pros definitely outweigh the cons of owning a cellular device—especially one of the ‘smart phone’ variety, the idea of buying a new one always comes with the added thought of ‘how can I purchase one of these things ethically?’

A while back I had found online the FairPhone. My heart leaped for joy when I discovered there was an ethically sourced phone actually available for the world to use! Unfortunately, the phone is currently only available in Europe and doesn’t ship to Canada. Even if it did, the capabilities are slightly less, as it wasn’t designed for use here.

Does this make me sad?
Of course! The opportunity to buy a phone created by using conflict-free minerals from the DRC that support families, factories that support safe conditions, a company who gives fair wages and worker representation, who finds smart ways to use, reuse and recycle phones… This is a company who lives out the ideals I so desperately want to be part of my every day life—that we need to make informed decisions about the products we purchase so we can part of bringing people up and not dragging them down.

Let’s be honest, I bought an iPhone. The 5c, to be exact. I got an epic deal (free, thanks Rogers) and it is compatible with my MacBook Pro, my husbands phone (yay for FaceTime, since we both travel somewhat often and not always together) and good ol’ iMessenger. In terms of usefulness, the iPhone wins in my books. So here I am, sitting at my laptop while my iPhone 5c sits beside me notifying me of a recent text message while I long for it to the FairPhone (with all the capabilities of my iPhone that make it so darn convenient). I can’t help but think of all the people in the massive lineups just last week who, without a second thought, purchased the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 plus. People don’t even flinch when it comes to dropping large sums of cash to purchase the latest phones and other tech products—especially those from the world’s beloved Apple.

But what if people did consider what they were supporting with their money before they spent it? According to the Canadian Apple store, the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 plus range in price from $749 to $1079. As shockingly large these numbers are to me (the idea of paying even $129 for an iPhone 5s was too much for me to handle), I know there are enough people in the world who look at those prices and don’t even flinch or think about if that’s where their money should be going. But the question is, what if they did? What if they did take a moment, and before swiping their credit card they thought, ‘who actually makes this thing?’

I was the most pumped, as someone who knows there isn’t a lot of information out there on ethics on the electronics world, to find that my treasured Free2Work has recently released an Electronics Industry Trends 2014 report. What I love about these reports is, if you take the time to actually read through them, you are presented with so much information on slavery in the different parts of makeup of electronics from mining the minerals to putting together the final pieces in factories. Information like this had previously been unknown to most people and now, the information is readily available at the click of mouse.

Click the image to enlarge!
As a society whose basic functions are interwoven with the electronics we can’t imagine being parted from, it is important and vital to our ever-deepening relationship with them to be educated on how they are produced. The worlds cherished Apple has an overall score of B+ and does not provide a living wage to those who make their products. Society will pay $749 for a phone whose makers don’t even make a living wage. If that statement doesn’t make you question the phone sitting beside you or the phone you are reading this on, perhaps read it again and really think about what that looks like. Do you think the individuals working in the Foxconn Factory in China realize it would take over 3 months of their salary* to purchase the least expensive version of the latest released phone? While I’m not trying to bash Apple (honestly, their B+ grade is one of the better ones by an electronics company, comparatively), for myself, it’s hard to set these facts aside, especially when I was looking for a new phone to purchase.

I want to continually live a lifestyle where I practice what I preach. When people question me about what I own, I want to be able to stand up for my decision in the company I have chosen to support. Knowing options like the FairPhone exist is exciting based on my expectancy that if one company can do it and is doing it, others will follow suit. What we need now is for individuals like you and I to say to Apple 'we care and want an option, like the Fair Phone, to purchase with our hard earned dollars!' It’s not just Apple we need to approach, so many other companies are doing worse than Apple and to them we need to say the same thing. If one company is doing it, they all can. Perhaps I’ll find the $749 worth it for a phone that is ethically produced and save my money to purchase a phone I can use with confidence knowing the impact of the product is positive and not destructive to all those involved.

My challenge to you: Take just 5 minutes of your time and take a look at Free2Works Electronics Industry Trends report and see where the company of your mobile phone and computer sit.  Share this information with someone and start a conversation on how you can use your purchasing power to change the way companies produce their products.

* $238 monthly salary found here.

1 comment:

Please, leave your thoughts on what you have read above :)