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Handset vendors walk the green path

Posted: 03 Dec 2008     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:mobile handset  greening efforts  recycling programs 

Most mobile handset vendors acknowledge public pressure to produce environmentally sound products. It is an issue they need to continue to address through their corporate responsibility charters. Faced with the economic realities of "going green," however, the vendors' appetite for creating biodegradable and recyclable products from sustainable resources eventually fades out.

"Several proof products that epitomise a vendor's best greening efforts are currently being marketed," said ABI Research director Kevin Burden. "But our research found that very few handset manufacturers—except those with the scale to do it economically such as Samsung and Nokia—are highly motivated to produce lines of green phones. Instead, the effort is towards compliance and the trickling down of proven green elements throughout entire product lines."

Scale is the key concept. Despite the vast numbers of phones that are produced and discarded every year, few vendors are working on the kind of scale that makes entire green product lines economically viable in their view.

Most mobile handset vendors do have recycling programs, but less than 5 per cent of the annual worldwide volume of handsets shipped come back through recycling or ethical disposal programs. Regulatory pressures, coupled with corporate and social responsibilities, have forced the issue for most manufacturers. Many toxic substances have been legally banned, and other substances known to threaten human health and the environment are being phased out voluntarily by many manufacturers.

Burden concludes: "A 2008 Nokia survey indicated that 76 per cent of their respondents are more likely to buy phones from companies they consider environmentally responsible. That is a potential economic benefit, but hard to measure. As vendors move green features towards a platform approach for broader implementation, that is when negative economic factors flatten and the environment truly wins."

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