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Mapping Out a Better Electronics Supply Chain

Like the Rome of old, a more transparent and sustainable supply chain is not built in a day. Building it takes planning, mapping, and fine-tuning. Data visualization enables organizations to bridge all three.

Awareness of the need for sustainability and transparency in the electronic supply chain is rising. And a number of companies have said they are committed to improving in those areas, whether in response to questions about components of their supply chain, like conflict minerals, or as a positive choice when defining the company’s mission.

No matter what the motive, any company that commits adopt socially responsible sourcing has to be able to track all the components of its electronic supply chain, which has to take into account not only the carbon output at the point of production but through all the phases of transportation, as well. Here's a video illustration:

Supply Chain Mapping for Everyone from Sourcemap on Vimeo.

Companies that aim to achieve transparency and sustainability turn to Sourcemap to chart their   supply chain “from raw materials to end customer.” Among its clients is the Netherlands-based  Fairphone. As we saw in Susan Fourtane's article on Fairphone's launch in 2013 here, the phones were designed with sustainable features that include the following:

  • Conflict-free tin and tantalum (from the DRC)
  • Rootable operating system (OS)
  • Worker welfare
  • Replaceable batteries
  • E-waste program
  • Dual SIM

The Fairphone's experiment in offering a more sustainable phone to customers who shared the company's commitment to environment was a success. It sold the entire initial production run of 25,000 units. Clearly, it had higher standards than alternative smartphones, but it still had “room for improvement,” according to the report, ‘Fair’ smartphones compared – Fairphone scores better than TCO-certified smartphones.

The report credited Fairphone for “responsible mining, including conflict minerals, and reducing environmental and social impacts.” The company was also recognized for “e-waste measures,” as well as the “multi-stakeholder approach in the supply chain to improve working conditions and transparency.” However, the report found Fairphone lacking in five areas. 

Fairphone addressed that critiques in a blog with assurances that those area will be improved with the Fairphone 2 that became available for preorder on July 16 for delivery this November. The new version of the phone promises a higher standard of sustainability than the first version of the phone, which was somewhat limited by working off of an existing design.

With full control of the design for the Fairphone 2, the company was able to maximize the possibilities for maintenance and repair, as well as avoidance of any hazardous substances and ISO 14001 standard certification.  Fairphone 2 created a new design is made to make the phone easy to open and repair. That's an important component of Fairphone's quest to diminish waste and make its phones as recyclable as possible. Take a look at what they did here: 

Fairphone 2: Modular design for you to open and repair from Fairphone on Vimeo.

With the new version of the phone, the company also has made progress on transparency. The 300 plus components that go into Fairphone 2 are all identified by country of origin on an  interactive Sourcemap, which can be accessed from its website 

The transparency gain for Fairphone not only reflects on its own progress toward its goals but on  the electronic supply chain in general. As Dr. Leonardo Bonanni, Founder and CEO of Sourcemap, explained, “Supply chain mapping – knowing where products originate – gets easier the more companies do it.”  

While it will take years to build, up all road maps help point the way to a more transparent and sustainable supply chain.

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