APPS & TECH

Sustainability and the Electronics Industry | IFA 2016

Electronics: the industry where sustainability doesn’t come easy. Let me introduce you to five ethical brands – offering clever products for our everyday needs – that make a difference today.

On the occasion of the electronics expo IFA 2016, a press brunch organised and hosted by the Berlin-based agency for strategic branding and press relations muxmäuschenwild has brought together press, bloggers and sustainable tech brands in the cosy setting of the show kitchen/ culinary location Cooks Connection.

A panel of five ethical brands – a green blogger’s dream come true.ifa-2016-press-brunch

Sustainability and Electronics:
The Challenges

Take growing demand across all markets, competition, pricing pressure, targeted turnovers – blend, serve and behold: the sustainability hangover is real. The challenges in the electronics industry are many.

And issues arise across the whole value chain from sourcing/ mining to working conditions to product end of life and recyclability all the way to the user data collected in-between, boiling down to a lack of standards and global regulations.

Apart from energy labels for domestic appliances (that A+ sticker on your fridge for example), labelling standards for ecology, fair working conditions and so on – like those we know from the textile industry or the beauty industry – are not existent.

Companies do establish corporate responsibility and sustainability programmes but sometimes, whether due to a lack of transparency or a lack of regulatory context, these can come across as mere marketing. Even if green-hearted people are involved, the problems are systemic.

Yet in the same time, even if you’re not a gadget aficionado or a tech aficionada, you do depend on white goods, on consumer electronics, on apps and web resources, briefly: on technology and electronic devices.

Alternatives in Tech and Electronics

It’s good to know there are companies that have entered the electronics field to inspire real change; and the IFA press brunch has brought together five of them.

ifa_press_brunch_sustainable_techLeft to right: panel talk with Matthias Huisken (iFixit, European Director), Miquel Ballester (Fairphone, Co-Founder), Jacey Bingler (Ecosia, Head of Public Relations), Felix Hallwachs (Little Sun, Managing Director), Frank Karlitschek (Nextcloud, Founder) and our muxmäuschenwild host.

1. A green search engine that contributes to reforestation with 80% of their ad revenues: Ecosia

Ecosia has a simple user interface – a simple search field – and a tree planting ticker that is closing up on 5 million trees as I type this. Supported projects are selected in collaboration with independent reforestation experts.

Right now the search engine is only available in German but expansion is on its way, and you can follow Ecosia Instagram to stay up to date. While the search engine is Ecosia’s own, the ad and widget functionalities come from technology partner Bing/ Microsoft.

2. The fairest smartphone available that many people still think is only a prototype (hint: it’s not): Fairphone

Fairphone is a great demonstration of how blue-eyed do-goodies aren’t going to save the planet and its people but bold action and transparency are. Building a “clean” value chain from scratch is a complex matter, and the Amsterdam-based company are very transparent about it.

Conflict minerals, unethical working conditions, short life cycles are some of the main problems affecting our smartphones. Fairphone’s mission is establishing (more) ethical mining, designing, manufacturing practices and providing sustainable solutions for the product end-of-life. Since transparency is key, you can always track the ethical roadmap of the Fairphone or get the full scoop in the Fact sheet.ifa_press_brunch_muxmauschenwildPress and bloggers, tech and sustainability.

3. A wiki that enables you to hack planned obsolescence with free tutorials and affordable pro repair kits: iFixit

Repair and re-use – still the most sustainable option for many products. iFixit offers free, crowd-sourced repair manuals as well and professional-grade tool kits and parts enabling everybody to easily fix their devices.

Whether your iPhone screen is cracked or you can’t open your coffee machine because of proprietary screws, whether your GoPro cam power button is stuck or your Playstation fan is broken, iFixit has you covered.

Read the quirky iFixit manifesto or meet the team at this year’s Maker Faire MakerCon in Berlin.littlesunenergy_lamp_charger© Little Sun

4. Light is one of the major drivers of civilisation – everyone can make solar lamps and chargers affordable for off-grid rural communities, enabling education and empowering families with Little Sun Energy

The system is simple: with each lamp or charger sold, one is made available to an African community at a locally-affordable price. I think we don’t even need to discuss how vital light is for education and quality of life.

A little extra: kids or school classes can learn about the importance of solar energy in general and for off-grid regions using the free creative and fun projects for all ages, available here.

5. Consumers and entrepreneurs can own their data and set up their own, secure and indepentent (video) chats and data sharing using the OpenSource software and servers by Nextcloud

Why aren’t more people concerned about their data? I honestly don’t know.
Luckily, for those who are, solutions are at our fingertips.

Nextcloud is a free solution that enables anyone – families, companies, institutions – to manage, share and control contacts, data, photos and calendars. Developers can contribute to this OpenSource project, companies can get support subscriptions, and everybody owns their own data. Take that, 1984.

The Many Facets of Sustainability in Tech

I hope this was an interesting read for you guys, because as you know already, ethical excellence doesn’t stop at your wardrobe, your kitchen pantry, or your bathroom cabinet.
I’ll try to post my IFA 2016 review until the end of this week but until then:

I want to hear from you what green tech, electronics/ business & sustainability topics would you be most interested in? Leave a comment below or drop me a line here.

P.S.
Many thanks to our host muxmäuschenwild ❤

 

13 replies »

  1. Really interesting and useful. I HATE that it is so much cheaper to buy a new electrical good than fix it. I’ve managed to fix a few things myself thanks to the good old interweb when engineers were charging a fortune – particularly proud of fixing a boiler 🙂 – so will bookmark ifixit. The cloud is such a biggie….Thank you!

    • Wow, a boiler?! Not too shabby.

      The madness of buying a new one being cheaper is only topped by the madness of reducing production costs by sending the product across the planet. Absolutely sick!

  2. Too sad that I could not join the press brunch. Unfortunately most of the brands were not able to present their products during the press day on Thursday… However for me the most useful from your list seem for the moment iFixit and Little Sun Energy. But I will read for sure more about the five brands.

    • You need to fill me in on the event you went to! 🙂

      I like all of them and find all super useful, however I am not ready to go back to an Android phone… Not yet 😉