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Telecoms giants launch cross-industry sustainability ratings for mobile devices

November 2014

Sustainability non-profit Forum for the Future has teamed up with telecoms giants O2 and Vodafone to launch a shared rating system to help customers compare mobile devices based on environmental credentials.

The industry first, called Eco Rating 2.0, provides a standardised score so consumers can make informed decisions based on comparable sustainability ratings, irrespective of device make or network provider.

Gareth Rice, head of CR and environment at O2, told Ethical Performance that its creation was first built as a one-stop shop to address various consumer enquiries such as the energy consumption of a handset.

Mobile devices are now rated from zero to five based on manufacturers’ answers to a number of questions, which cover information on the lifecycle of devices, responsible design features and manufacturing choices. The scale is 0.0 to 5.0 with the lowest currently rating at 3.0 and the highest at 4.2 (which is a Nokia Lumia). The idea behind the rating is not to promote one brand ahead of another on ‘green credentials’, says Rice, but to try and build sustainability awareness amongst consumers and suppliers. “We would never favour one handset over another,” Rice said.

Eco Rating 2.0 replaces separate ratings previously used by O2 and Vodafone and Orange has confirmed it will adopt the system in 2015.

The eco rating of handsets is included in the sales material adjacent to all handsets in O2 and Vodafone retail outlets.

It’s also available online and in the O2 Magazine. All the primary touchpoints are covered, maintains Rice.

Retail staff have also been educated in the system. It makes up part of O2’s ‘Conversation Starter Pack’ that details what the system is all about. This includes a ‘Top Trumps’ style card game which details the different handset ratings.

Rice sees the ramifications of the system really resonating in the supply chain: “It’s about bringing sustainability up the agenda for suppliers and also driving change in the supply chain.”

Being involved in the rating system has led to some suppliers making changes to their packaging, use of chemicals during production and work welfare policies, Rice said. “It’s having a significant impact and that’s gratifying.”

One of the major omissions from the rating is Apple handsets. “We have asked them to participate but they have their own systems,” Rice added.

Sally Uren, ceo at Forum for the Future, commented: “Eco Rating 2.0 answers the demand from consumers for transparency. A common understanding of the sustainability issues surrounding the manufacture, retail and use of mobile devices goes a long way in driving change.”
 




UK & NI Ireland | Sustainability

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