How about hazardous materials?

Dealing with hazardous substances is one of the trickiest topics we deal with at Fairphone. This is because of the extensive nature of legislation on these substances. The two main concerns:

  • worker safety
  • environmental protection

We created a document that we use to assess and increase responsible business practices with our partners. It is titled Ways of Working Together [.PDF alert]. It summarizes our expectations on the policies and operational practices of our partners. The document also includes minimum requirements for hazardous materials and waste. These are standards and procedures for:

  • production
  • collection
  • transportation
  • storage
  • treatment.

Yet, it does not prevent the use of alternative products and procedures that exceed these minimums.

 

Worker safety

Suppliers who we decide to work with,

  • need to maintain documentation and records to prove compliance with the standards and applicable laws
  • commit to adopt and apply adequate practices to prevent, measure and track health and safety hazards
  • are aided by us in:
    • the performance of periodic evaluations at their facilities and operations
    • conducting due diligence assessments of new and existing contractors, suppliers, agents and service providers to ensure legal compliance.

The use of some hazardous substances in the production of the phone is inevitable, so we encourage suppliers to minimize harm through adequate prevention and responses.

 

Environment

In Fairphone policy, the environmental aspect of hazardous substances focuses on the treatment of hazardous waste management.
The partners commit to:

  • put in place measures for minimizing the generation of hazardous waste at the source
  • agree to carry out the handling of hazardous waste under specific conditions that:
    • provide adequate protection for the environment
    • provide adequate protection for human health
    • enable traceability from production to final destination
  • prevent mixing of hazardous waste with other waste
    • they use professional entities with the right permits to ensure that the treatment, transport or handling of hazardous waste is within the applicable local and international standards.

 

Fairphone

From our side, we approach this issue from many angles.

  • We have a standard operating procedure for due diligence which is in line with the European Law on restricted substances
    • On the basis of this procedure, we collect RohS compliance documentation and/or test reports for all the components
    • These enable a review per component. This helps us ensure that the levels of hazardous chemicals such as lead, cadmium, chromium VI, PBDEs and PBBs do not surpass the thresholds set in the ROHS regulation (1000 ppm - except for cadmium with 100 ppm-)
    • For the production of the Fairphone 1 and 2, we work together with experts and review documentation, materials and practices used in the phone’s assembly. We aim to collect this information from accredited sources. Think of supplier safety data sheets we use to rank their risk and negotiate on measures to provide protective equipment and proper environments
  • In view of the REACH regulation, Fairphone requires suppliers to track the potential presence of Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC) above 1000 ppm on a regular basis. The list of restricted substances within the REACH regulation changes every six months.
  • We are collecting as many full material disclosures (FMD) as possible from the companies that deliver the components for our product.
    • An FMD is a disclosure of the types of substances, hazardous or otherwise, a single component contains. For example the amount of chemicals, alloys, metals, and plastics. An individual component sometimes contains over one hundred substances.
    • So far, we have collected more than 80% of all the material declarations for the 500+ components that we use in the production of the Fairphone 2. This allows us to dive further into the material composition of the phone and focus on tackling extra substances step by step. This evaluation tool helps us to further improve on our total impact when creating and manufacturing products.
  • We are closely working with our manufacturers to promote safe chemical management. This is part of general labor conditions audits as well as more in depth in Industrial Hygiene assessments. Depending on the need, we offer support to co-develop:
    • management systems for the chemicals used in the factory
    • the use of protective equipment
    • the training and information available for workers
    • co-developing management plans in case of an accident
    • offering support where we can when the manufacturer is looking for safe alternatives.
  • Next to this, we have also defined further actions on some important hazardous substances:
    • PVC (Polyvinylchloride) - the Fairphones are free of PVC
    • Halogenated Flame Retardants
      • All Fairphone 2 materials follow the ROHS directive requirements set for Brominated Flame Retardants, limiting the use of PBDEs and PBBs at concentrations < 1000 ppm at homogeneous material level
      • Additionally, we avoid the use of other Halogenated Flame Retardants and strive to phase these out completely. We push our suppliers to use the HFR-free options whenever possible. For example, flame retardants of concern such as HBCDD and TBBPA have not been detected when tested in specific components (PCBs, filters, connectors, resistors, etc.)
    • Phthalates - We avoid the use of Phthalates by requesting our suppliers to deliver components free of Phthalates. As a result, all our structural plastics are free of Phthalates. We are researching the final composition of materials in some sub-assemblies where some complex materials are used in smaller quantities. For example in the integrated circuits packaging substrates and bodies
    • Benzene and n-Hexane - These substances are not used in the final assembly of Fairphone 2. Instead we use Ethylalcohol.

All in all, challenges remain. There are more hazardous substances than mentioned above used in production and production processes. While we would like to restrict as many hazardous substances as possible, we need to take this step by step. We will keep you updated on the progress we make on the way.

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