Five major European operators and top Android smartphone vendors have come together to launch a new Eco Rating label to identify sustainable phones. The five telcos are Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefónica, Telia Company and Vodafone. The vendors include leading names such as Samsung, Huawei, Xiaomi, HMD Global (Nokia), Motorola / Lenovo, OnePlus, OPPO, TCL / Alcatel, ZTE, Bullitt Group (CAT and Motorola rugged phones) and Doro.

Following a detailed assessment, each mobile phone handset will be given an overall Eco Rating score out of a maximum of 100 to signal the environmental impact of the device across its entire life cycle. The Eco Rating will provide guidance in five key areas: durability, reparability, recyclability, climate efficiency and resource efficiency.

Eco Rating will appeal to Gen Z

The Eco Rating addresses a growing call from an emergent group of consumers for environmentally conscious and sustainable products, the Millennial and Gen Z demographics. According to the most recent US Census, more than half of all Americans are Millennials or younger, representing almost 165 million people. Gen Z is on track to becoming the largest generation of consumers in the next two years. Increasingly referred to as Generation Green, they are eco-conscious to the point of altering their purchasing behaviors to favor sustainable products. Companies who address this issue and publically commit to sustainability are therefore helping to future-proof their brands.

Consumer electronics with short lives, such as smartphones, do not lend themselves well to sustainability and eco-friendliness. According to the United Nations, global e-waste volumes grew by 21% between 2104 and 2019, and a mere 17.4% of e-waste discarded in 2019 was recycled. The UN estimates that this growth will lead to a doubling of e-waste in just 16 years, at a time when the youngest Gen Z-ers gain adulthood and purchasing power. Practices that extend the circular economy of a smartphone are the need of the hour and the Eco Ratings project aims to address that.

Future-proofing brands

Apple, though an absentee from this Android-focused consortium of eco labelling, is also addressing the environmental concerns of its future customers. Apple devotes large chunks of its keynotes to speaking about sustainability and has pledged to be 100 percent carbon neutral for its supply chain and products by 2030.

Unlike Apple, the Android ecosystem is fragmented with multiple OEMs, each doing their bit to address these issues. But working together to bring sustainability under one standard, quantifiable rating allows a faster transition towards a more circular model for mobile phones, extending their lifecycle and saving resources by using recycled materials.

Europe leads the world in e-waste recycling, and it is no surprise that the Eco Rating consortium emerged from the region. Companies who address sustainability and are able to articulate it to Millennials and Gen Z will have a head start with future consumer loyalty.