fairphone by bas van abel: creating a conflict free smartphone fairphone by bas van abel: creating a conflict free smartphone
may 17, 2013

fairphone by bas van abel: creating a conflict free smartphone


fairphone: creating a conflict-free smart phoneall images © fairphone




WHAT DESIGN CAN DO, the international event on the impact of design


designboom is the international media partner for the WHAT DESIGN CAN DO! (WDCD) conference in amsterdam. the two-day program (may 16-17, 2013) is divided into different sections, each focusing on a specific theme. speakers in these areas come from various backgrounds and fields, expressing the importance of cross breeding in creative practices.  this year’s topics cover: publishing, education, research, food, branding and the screen.


2013 WDCD speaker, bas van abel, founder of fairphone, is passionate about changing the relationship between people and products. he believes that by opening up the design processes behind everyday things, people can re-engage and become active owners of their belongings. this is the model that has driven his social enterprise fairphone, forming systems on a step-by-step journey to making the world’s first fairly designed and conflict-free produced smartphone.



fairphone conflict-free smartphone



as mobile phones contain more than thirty different kinds of minerals and metals – from copper and cobalt to gold – some of these minerals, like tin, originate from eastern congo – an area struck by some severe internal conflicts. frequently howeever, the end product ends up being sold by war lords, which contributes to un-ethical human conditions. a conflict-free tin initiative (CFTI) was introduced, aiming to create demand for conflict-free tin from this region – thereby creating a prospect for economic development and regional stability. the campaign introduces a tightly controlled conflict-free supply chain outside the control of armed groups.



taking a step-by-step approach, fairphone aims to make the story behind the production of electronics more transparent



the current supply chain (from mineral extraction to manufacturing) is complicated involving many actors and geographies. consumer pricing, profit before people and external competition has led to pressure in the upstream supply chain, accelerating a race to the bottom. ‘you have to dive deep and take responsibility for the end supply chain that traditional companies have largely avoided until advocacy groups pressured them to do so.’ says abel


issues like conflicts around mineral mining in congo, poor working conditions in factories from mexico to china, and the current business models that create ‘designed for the dump’ consumables assure more of these products are being sold, when the capacity to produce and mine material is reaching its limits. designing and creating fair electronics can be a force of change and an attempt to curb current consumption models that fail to measure the environmental and social costs of production.

with help from IDH and laborvoices, the initiative is striving towards helping improve working conditions



using this model, the phone becomes a storytelling artifact, expressing a dialogue between all the stakeholders, from policy maker to consumers, from designers to marketeers. the concept sheds light on the dark matter of extraction and manufacturing and makes the user understand what actions are needed to change the system that produces our phones.

refurbish, reuse, recycle – fairphone is working with closing the loop to prevent e-waste from ending up in african and asian landfill.



‘fairphone is the start of a movement for change much more than the end solution for a problem. taking a step-by-step approach, the initiative aims to make the story behind the production of electronics more transparent, raising the bar for the industry and giving consumers a choice for fairer electronics.‘

the social venture implements a new way of doing business

something you love has to be made thoughtfully – they are building a sensible business everybody can take pride in

designboom is an international media partner of what can design do!





the two-day event in amsterdam celebrates the power of design and its problem-solving abilities – exposing design as a catalyst of change and renewal and a way of addressing the societal questions of our time.


too often design is associated only with aesthetics, trends and luxury, but design can mean so much more. at its best, design can change, improve, renew, inspire, involve, shock, move, disrupt, help or solve. what design can do intends to demonstrate the value of design thinking as a response to the challenges of today’s world. with a lineup of international speakers from all design disciplines, what design can do will be the platform for designers to manifest the social potential of their profession. together with the audience, the speakers will discuss alternative strategies for the future. participants will be stimulated to come up with their own answers and ideas. this makes what design can do an activist conference, the outcome of which will be published in a book compiled on the spot and presented at the end of the conference. what design can do is an annual international conference for design professionals, company leaders and government officials.


what design can do is a cross-over between design disciplines – from architecture to product design, from graphic design to fashion design – as solutions for today’s challenges generally demand a multi-disciplinary approach. what design can do is initiated by designers who feel the responsibility to make their profession useful for society and want to reflect on this with fellow designers and other professionals.

fairphone: creating a conflict-free smartphone fairphone: creating a conflict-free smartphone fairphone: creating a conflict-free smartphone fairphone: creating a conflict-free smartphone fairphone: creating a conflict-free smartphone fairphone: creating a conflict-free smartphone fairphone: creating a conflict-free smartphone fairphone: creating a conflict-free smartphone full article here fairphone: creating a conflict-free smartphoneimages © fairphone

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