Photo by Marvin Meyer
Sustainable fashion, ethical goods and foods, along with other fair trade products are now widely available across the internet. These industries have traditionally been flooded with exploitation and human rights abuses for decades. Before the internet, consumers had no other real way of knowing about these abuses, even if they did the option of buying a more ethical alternative was non existent.
Nike, Gap, Nestle, Victoria’s Secret, Forever 21 and hundreds of other companies have all made billions off exploiting cheap labor in the globalized marketplace. Many large manufactures, over the last few decades, have focused more on producing products at a mass scale and very rapidly, other than focusing on transparency, human rights, and sustainable production. This is not to say these companies are terrible or bad people(no company is perfect), just simply that their priorities are much different. All of these companies are public and adhere to shareholders and the market, which puts tons of pressure on production and profits every quarter.
The reporting on the textile and food industries violations have been widely reported over the years, but according to a 2011 report the industry most likely to violate workers rights is the electronics industry! In another report from 2016, Amnesty International highlighted that Apple, Samsung, Microsoft are responsible for “the worst forms of child labor” and other human rights abuses in the production of its electronics.
The last frontier of social good and sustainable manufacturing is electronics. As consumers, we can now shop for ethical jeans, shoes, watches, shirts, jewelry, food and pretty much anything else you could buy from a traditional retail store. However, there is still one huge gap missing for individuals who like to shop more sustainably, and that’s electronics.
This is truly the last frontier for social entrepreneurs to complete the eco-system of social impact shopping. The reason it has taken so long is that it is extremely difficult to development ethical and sustainable electronics. Ethical supply chains are tough to create and implement. Extracting materials in an ethical way is difficult. Blending both of these things to create an ethical electronics product is very difficult.
Social entrepreneurs now have a real chance to step up and look at the landscape of electronic manufacturing and do things much differently. From creating ethical supply chains, to using repurposed materials, the companies below have created an amazing alternative for conscious consumers to start buying electronics with a clear conscious. Below are three companies that I see doing some amazing things in the ethical electronics space. These companies are proving that its possible to create and produce high quality ethical electronic products and do it at a competitive price!
Fairphone is a certified B-corp and has created the world’s first ethical smartphone. Created in 2013, Fairphone launched the movement for fairer electronics. The company makes a positive impact across the value chain in mining, design, manufacturing and life cycle, while expanding the market for products that put ethical values first. The company believes in sourcing conflict-free materials that support local economies, not armed militias. Fairphone works closely with manufacturers that want to invest in employee wellbeing and ethical worker practices. The company is also addressing the full lifespan of mobile phones, including use, reuse and safe recycling programs that make it easy to recycle your Fairphone, so the parts can be re-purposed and not end up in landfills and the ocean.
Nimble is brand new to the ethical electronics space, but they are destined for huge impact. They work only with suppliers who share their values on workers’ rights, sustainable materials and reducing environmental impact. Nimble is committed to not only reducing their environmental impact through smarter production means and materials, but by encouraging the entire Nimble Community to help reduce the amount of e-waste ending up in the world’s landfills. The company provides a recyclable bag inside all packaging, and offer a pre-paid mail-in label so customers can easily send old electronic devices, cell phones, cables, etc, directly to their e-waste recycling partner, Homeboy Electronics for safe, responsible reclamation! Nimble also selects high-quality, low-impact materials, with no paint or toxic chemicals. Fully recyclable aluminum and plant-based plastics are used with no chemical adhesives and all fabric blends are made with 100% organic hemp and recycled plastic bottles.
LSTN was founded with a singular purpose: to change lives through the power of music. Proceeds from sales of all LSTN products go towards giving hearing aids to people in need worldwide through their charity partner, Starkey Hearing Foundation. Over the past 5 years, LSTN has helped over 30,000 people worldwide hear for the first time! This was possible due to LSTN customers purchasing the companies high quality headphones, earbuds, speakers and accessories.
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Founder of Causeartist // Social Entrepreneur