Earth Day: How Sustainable Are Smartphones?

Earth Day
How sustainable are smartphones?

Even happier with the phone thanks to the ethical standards of technology.

© Gorodenkoff/

Sustainability is important to smartphone users in Germany, but the choice is limited. How to find sustainable cell phones.

The supply chains of our electronics are problematic, this also applies to smartphones. Cobalt, gold and rare earths: The raw materials used in smartphones often come from conflict regions where miners have to work under inhumane conditions. Everything is then assembled in China, and here, too, the working conditions of the factory workers are not always transparent. According to a Bitkom study German consumers want more sustainability, but the range is limited. These tips will help in the quest for greener telephony.

Only one manufacturer regularly meets the strictest requirements

As with food or clothing, electronic devices have labels that are intended to certify the sustainability of the technology. The “TCO certified” label, which was created in 1992 and has its origins in Sweden, looks at the strictest rules. Its conditions are comparatively restrictive: a weekly working time of 60 hours per employee may not be exceeded, child labor is prohibited, the use of hazardous chemicals is regulated and protective clothing is required. TCO provides on his website a list of devices that currently meet the criteria.

The result is sobering: Only two manufacturers can do justice to the TCO label in April 2022. Fairphone, which has been on the market since 2013 with the claim of offering a green alternative – and the GT2 and GT2 Pro from the Chinese company realme. This is a subsidiary of the Chinese mobile phone company Oppo, which in turn is a subsidiary of the mega electronics group BBK Electronics. The seal of the federal government, the “Blue Angel”, indicates on his website Among the current devices, only the Fairphone 4 presented in September is certified.

It’s mine, I want to fix it

Ideally, damage should be repairable so that smartphones don’t just become disposable goods and the devices last longer. In order to be able to assess as a consumer whether this is the case, the organization “iFixit” a repairability index to disposal. In France, such an index has even been enshrined in law since the beginning of 2021.

On the “iFixit” scale from one to ten, only the Fairphone 2 and Fairphone 3 get full points, the iPhone 13 Pro scores mediocre with six points. Main criticism: The damage-prone glass casing of the device. However, the list is not all-encompassing, in 2021 “iFixit” only rated three new devices, this year none at all. The criterion of repairability is also important for the “Blue Angel”, and the battery must also be replaceable.


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