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‘Fair’ smartphones compared

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A few days after the start of Fairphone’s pre-order campaign for its Fairphone 2, Südwind, SOMO and the GoodElectronics network are publishing a comparative review of sustainable and social standards among ‘fair’ smartphones.

TCO Certified Smartphones versus Fairphone

“No smartphone is manufactured hundred percent fair, but Fairphone comes the closest”, says Elisabeth Schinzel of the Austrian development organisation Südwind who commissioned the report.

In May 2013, two initiatives offering a fair smartphone stepped into the spotlight. The Swedish certification body TCO Development hailed Samsung Galaxy S4 as the first green and fair produced smartphone. At the same time, the Dutch social enterprise Fairphone announced pre-orders for the first batch of Fairphones. Two years down the line, in a report entitled ‘TCO Certified Smartphones versus Fairphone. A comparison of sustainability criteria’ the two initiatives are reviewed and compared.


Of the 34 sustainability criteria selected by SOMO, Fairphone scored beyond current industry standards on 20 criteria. Fairphone scored particularly well in terms of responsible mining, including conflict minerals, and reducing environmental and social impacts. But they also scored well regarding e-waste measures, their multi-stakeholder approach in the supply chain to improve working conditions and transparency. Room for improvement was found in the grievance mechanisms for workers at the production sites. These and four other criteria are not met by Fairphone.

TCO-certified smartphones

TCO Certified scored beyond current industry standards on seven criteria; on 11 points they scored as being equivalent to standard industry level; and 16 of them were not addressed sufficiently.

The fact that TCO Certified smartphones do little better than non-certified smart phones is deplorable,” said Schinzel. “Fair production must not become a PR stunt. Whoever really wants to produce in a fair way must take this seriously and work on social responsibility for the production process.

Additional information

The ‘TCO Certified Smartphones versus Fairphone. A comparison of sustainability criteria’ is authored by Irene Schipper of SOMO, and was commissioned by the Austrian NGO Südwind(opens in new window) , as part of Südwind’s project ‘Jede Gemeinde zählt’. The report was developed in collaboration with the GoodElectronics Network(opens in new window) .

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