Power to you: Vodafone launches eco-rating for UK mobile phones

Mobile operator Vodafone has this month introduced a sustainability ranking scheme for mobile phones in the UK, to help customers compare the environmental and social impacts of different handsets.

The scheme, which first launched in the Netherlands and is now available across nine international markets, involves an eco-rating being displayed on the packaging of new mobile phones in Vodafone stores and online.

Using information retrieved directly from manufacturers, phones are scored from zero to five, based on both environmental impacts – like carbon emissions and how much water is used in manufacturing – and ethical factors – such as labour policies and health and safety practices for people assembling the phones.

“We want to empower our customers to make informed decisions about the phones they buy,” reads a statement from the company. “Vodafone’s Eco-rating scheme helps them do just that.”

Manufacturers are asked to respond to more than 200 questions covering the environmental and social impacts of each phone across its lifecycle, from the mining of raw materials used to make components to consumer use and disposal, and the level of commitment of the manufacturer to managing its own impacts, which is reassessed annually.

The eco-rating is based on a number of factors:

  • The use of raw materials that have a high environmental impact 
  • The amount of energy and water used to produce the phone 
  • The distance and method of transport used from production to Vodafone store 
  • Features that reduce the environmental impact and how easy it is to recycle at end of life 

Vodafone added: “The response from consumers has been positive. We conducted a survey in July 2012 of over 1,000 consumers in the Netherlands – 80% believed the score to be trustworthy and half said they would consider it when they buy a phone in future.” 

This follows a similar scheme adopted by rival operator O2 back in 2010, which charts the carbon footprint of phones on its website and in stores. 

Video: Vodafone’s Eco Rating

The new Nokia Lumia 520 has an eco-rating of 3.5 while the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini only managed 2.7. The iPhone page, however, does not display an eco-rating at all and many other handsets are still listed as ‘eco-rating unavailable’ on Vodafone’s website. 

The company is now working with other operators, manufacturers, the GSMA and the ITU to develop an industry standard for measuring the environmental and social impact of handsets.

Wind power

Meanwhile, in another move to become a more ethical and environmentally-friendly brand, Vodafone has this month partnered with wind power supplier EnergieKontor, which plans to build a small wind farm in Northamptonshire.

When the farm opens in 2015, Vodafone is commited to buying all the energy it produces over the next 15 years – enough to supply power to supply power to 5% of its network masts.

View full details of Vodafone’s UK eco-rating in the report below.

Luke Nicholls

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