Cell Phone Makers Half-Hearted On Green Initiatives


We’re all very aware of how cell phone companies are claiming to make “greener” phones — less toxic parts, more recyclable, using less energy. But according to a report out from ABI Research this morning, aside from the efforts of a couple large companies, most attempts at selling green phones are not being deployed at a very large scale.

ABI says while Samsung and Nokia (s NOK) have the scale to sell green phones economically, the majority of cell phone makers’ green phone intentions often fade “like a wireless signal in an underground parking lot.” Mainly, cell phone companies’ efforts are aimed at compliance (likely with environmental regulations like RoHS) and a “trickling down of proven green elements” for the rest of the product pipeline, ABI says. And even worse than making green products that fall short, ABI says that less than 5 percent of the cell phones shipped globally every year are recycled or disposed of sustainably.

There are a few issues with the greening of the cell phone market. While consumers say they will buy more sustainable cell phones — the report cites a Nokia study that says 76 percent of survey responders are more likely to buy phones from companies they view as “environmentally responsible” — there’s very little data on the actual green buying habits of consumers. Saying you support green products, and potentially paying more for those products, are very different issues — particularly in a recession.

And while compliance may drive foreign markets, in the U.S., there are a hodge podge of mostly voluntary green standards concerning electronics. More standards are needed to help cell phone companies and consumers figure out what defines “green phones,” and potentially something like the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) could help set the performance criteria for cell phone design and production.


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Thank you for the post it was very informative. The problem is that people want to go green it is just that it is so expensive to go green with just about any technology. Take a look at the Prius. It is probably the greenest mass produced car on the planet, but yet it costs over 20,000 out the door. So, as long as green makes you pay a lot of green than everyone will go brown.


Regardless of whether the phone itself is ‘green’ a proportionally big impact (or even larger perhaps) could be made by standardizing the accessories. There is absolutely no reason chargers and cables couldn’t be universal, yet the companies intentionally make them incompatible with each other… not only between brands but within a brand one model to the next will require a complete new set of cords and chargers. As a result we needlessly throw away or otherwise dispose of several of these items per phone. This is inexcusable, and should be addressed by any sort of green standard that is developed.

Plus universal accessories could be used for many kinds of products. There’s no reason we couldn’t be using the same charger for all of our portable accessories rather than having different plugs on all of them requiring us to acquire a suitcase full of cords to sustain a portable electronic lifestyle. The innards of these things are all basically identical! What a tremendous waste (and hassle).

Matt D.

I agree that more standards are needed to define what exactly makes a green cell phone. I like the link to EPEAT, but I wonder if it would help make things more consistent across the world if the U.S. accepted the EU’s RoHS compliance standards in deciding whether or not electronics are green?


I just wrote a post on my blog about Greenpeace’s rating of electronics companies – including some cell phone makers such as Nokia and Sony Ericsson. I agree that consumers are attracted to companies that project themselves as environmentally responsible, even if they know little about the actual actions of that particular company that make it environmentally responsible. Thanks for the post, and the link to EPEAT!

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