CSR: Not So Smart Smartphones


Smartphones have taken up our lives by a storm. Be it for business, relationships, transportation, or healthcare, we will face a handicap without these devices. India is one of the largest smartphone users in the world. With the rise of the digital revolution, AI, and an increasing number of apps, the demand for smartphones is rising at a very high speed.

Smartphones have certainly made lives easy for us, however, they have not been so easy to the environment. Gold, silver, cobalt, tin, tantalum, tungsten and copper are all essential components of mobile phones and other electrical devices we use daily. And, since mining is one of the most intensive users of heavy fuel oil, extraction contributes significantly to climate change.

The waste generated by the industry is altogether a different story. The electronics industry generates up to 41 million tonnes of e-waste each year globally. In the formal sector, only about 16% of this e-waste is recycled. Despite this, the majority of the carbon emissions happen during the manufacturing process, accounting to about 80%. About 16% emissions account for the consumer use and 3% for transportation.

The decline in the price of smartphones has reduced their lifespan. Today, increasingly sophisticated and well-maintained smartphones are discarded. The extreme competition is driving the companies to keep designing thinner and better smartphones. This, in turn, is only contributing towards rising carbon emissions.

In 2016, around 435,000 tonnes of mobile phones were discarded across the globe, with an estimated cost in raw materials of US$10.7 billion. If all phones had a longer life span and could enter a second-hand market, the value could be even higher.

The phones can’t be smart only by their smart features that make our lives easier. The phones can be smart when they are built more sustainably without damaging the environment.

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The CSR Journal Team