Smartphone manufacturers go green to boost zero net goals
By VINCENT OWINO
Every year, smartphone manufacturers unveil new devices with enhanced features, performance, storage and speed. Lately however, the race is toward becoming green in efforts to boost the world’s sustainability goals.
Manufacturers of the region’s leading mobile phone brands are now using recycled plastics and components as raw material and making some components biodegradable.
The recently released Tecno Phantom X2 series has its back cover made from recycled plastics drawn from oceans across the globe, one of its unique features and greatest selling points.
Samsung has also released a couple of product lines built on the sustainability agenda. The latest is the Samsung S23 series, which has multiple biodegradable components and some made from recycled fishing nets. Its predecessor, S22 series, released last year, also had near similar features.
Oppo also announced revamped sustainability efforts that include reducing the amount of plastic in its device packaging by 95 percent and using recycled plastics for some of its devices.
While multiple polls show that consumers are becoming more environmental conscious and are developing a bias for sustainable products and companies, phone manufactures say their efforts are primarily aimed at contributing to the globe’s efforts towards net zero emissions and not just as a marketing strategy.
Tecno’s Product Manager for East Africa, Dickson Ireri, told The EastAfrican that although the use of recycled plastics also reduces production costs for the Phantom X2, their primary motivation is to support sustainability.
“Our goal is to conserve energy, reduce air and water pollution as well as greenhouse gas emissions, to be part of global sustainability efforts,” Ireri said.
He reckons the company’s mindfulness of the environment is good for business because it saves production costs and builds on brand reputation as consumers become increasingly aware of environment, sustainability and governance (ESG) issues.
“Our company has always upheld policies that ensure more positive and less negative impacts on our environment because there is also a brand benefit for companies that are sensitive to green initiatives, carbon footprints and global warming.”
Samsung on the other hand says its ‘green’ phones are not saving on production costs but are, in fact, costlier to make. Their East Africa director for internet and mobile experience, Charles Kimari, told The EastAfrican that their reason for making greener phones is to boost sustainability.
“It is purely a deliberate effort by the company to help boost environmental sustainability and the costs incurred on these efforts are not transferred to the customers,” Kimari said.
However, these ‘sustainable’ gadgets are not cheap. For the majority of households in the region – with an estimated monthly income of less than $100 – these devices would cost a fortune.
Also read: Uganda seeks tech revolution with free smartphones
The recommended retail price for Tecno’s Phantom series is from about $550 for the lowest version, while the Samsung S23 series will be retailing from $1,500. They are both, however, niche products with premium memory, speed, camera and storage features.
Both companies maintain that the use of recycled materials does not make these devices expensive, and soon they will be making all their devices, including low-budget ones, in a similar fashion.