Social sustainability is important to me, and it also what has lead me to look into other aspects of sustainability as this blog shows. Usually I try to find alternatives that are ecologically, economically and socially sustainable. When I have to choose, I prioritize social sustainability. It’s not hard to see why this is the path for me: as a human rights student I care that social sustainability is a way of achieving respect for people’s rights.
During one semester of my bachelor we focused on Central Africa, and on reconciliation processes around the world. A concern of both is Congo. One of the things we spoke of was conflict metals. To be honest I had no idea that a large portion of metals in a common mobile phone comes from mines in Congo. That Congo is the producer of metals is not a problem in itself, the problem is that these are conflict metals. The mining supports several armed groups in the countries, allowing them to continue to control areas using threats, violence and sexual violence – thus the name conflict metals.
Today electronics with material from Congo are made of conflict metals since there is little control of the supply chains which could guarantee conflict-free metals. During the time we read about this in school I was feeling increasingly guilty that the phone in my hand probably supported armed violence against civilians. That’s far from something I want to do, but since it’s already in my hand it’s too late to do anything about it. I thought to myself that with my next phone I would do better.
And here I am: time for my next phone and for me to do better. Therefore I’ve chosen to buy a Fairphone which will arrive at the end of October. Until then I am borrowing my dad’s spare phone. The Fairphone guarantees transparent supply chains which conflict free metals, while reusing what can be reused. As an initiative they have chosen to continue to source their metals from Congo, despite conflict, but to it in a way that supports the common people, free from conflict and with minimal impact on health and the environment. Which in itself sound almost impossible, but as a company they’re getting incredible results. Last year they announced that all metals – tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold – now have conflict-free supply chain and are fair trade. That is just wow.
As a added bonus, and important to me as a human rights tudent, is that they strive for fair working conditions throughout the process by working with manufacturers to constantly improve conditions and relations at the workplace.
I feel so glad now that I´ve ordered it and I know that I am taking a step towards supporting a sustainable and fair process. Every bit I read about it, I feel proud that it can be done, but also optimistically glad that there’s enough people who want to go out of their way to produce a fair and socially sustainable phone instead of finding the cheapest alternative. It’s the sort of thing that restores faith in humanity, so I’m more than happy to put my faith in them.