The European Commission’s public consultation is an opportunity to re-imagine our digital world and our place in it.
Let’s kick this feature off a little differently, dear reader. Take a moment to look up from your screen. Chances are, you’ve got several electronic devices within eyeshot. Now, are you aware of their social and environmental impact? How many of these devices would you be able to fix yourself? And honestly, how tempting is it to simply replace rather than repair?
In an age where we become increasingly tech-reliant, we’re quick to replace it with the newest model if we cannot fix it ourselves. So it is somewhat ironic that while touch is the primary method of interaction with our connected devices, we seem to be losing touch with what brings us together. And make no mistake, the issue does not start or end with cracked smartphone screens. From the hardware to the operating system, from the network to the business models, digital technology and the industry impact our environment, society and private lives.
The time to collectively address this impact is now. Here’s where FairTEC comes in. We believe that organizations have a responsibility to offer solutions and services that can limit our impact and support end-users to change their behaviour. So we are working together to provide credible and sustainable alternatives to create a paradigm shift.
An opportunity for real change
The European Commission recently opened a public consultation on the “sustainable consumption of goods – promoting repair and reuse”. The Commission is looking to amend the Sale of Goods Directive and possibly introduce a separate new legislative proposal on the right to repair. This will encourage consumers to extend the useful life of goods, repair defective goods, and purchase more second-hand and refurbished goods. In other words, it is as close to an open invitation to affect sustainable change as you can get. There was no way that FairTEC would pass on this opportunity.
The most sustainable product is the one you already own, make it last!
Here’s the thing; any legislation centred around design inevitably leads to creating new products. Sustainable consumption, however, starts with the usage, longevity and pride of ownership of the items we already own. Bearing this in mind, here is an overview of some of our proposed measures that would have a direct positive effect on all of us in this interconnected digital world:
Not unlike the alcohol and tobacco industry mandates, we propose educational transparency regarding the social and environmental impact and consequences of the electronics industry.
- To encourage users to consider purchasing used over new, we propose introducing a weighted tax that favours used or repaired hardware.
- We support the democratization of repair services through uniformity in the construction of smartphones.
- Consequently, manufacturers should commit to a period of availability of spare parts.
- To prevent software obsolescence, we support extending software support to a minimum of 5 years.
- We support democratizing access to alternative operating systems by making an unlockable and re-lockable bootloader mandatory. This would promote software longevity, as well as data privacy.
- The other side of this coin is prohibiting practices that permanently lock users into preinstalled operating systems.
- We support promoting the use of open technologies to improve collaboration and auditable privacy.
Telecom operators and electronic resellers
- Telecom providers should deal with their carbon footprint and develop an economic interest in consuming “less”. Therefore, we support the use of recycled or reconditioned antennas and replacing old equipment with more energy-efficient equipment.
- However, and this is crucial, recycling initiatives should not act as commercial levers to entice users to buy a new phone. We propose that telecom operators and electronics resellers only offer commercial value for recycled devices if they are older than 2 or 3 years.
Please head over to pdf for a detailed breakdown of our entire catalogue of proposed measures.
It’s time for us to become more mindful and responsible in how we interact with our electronics. Technology isn’t going anywhere, so instead of ignoring the elephant in the room, engage with it by educating yourself on how you can start changing your own behaviour one step at a time. On FairTEC’s part, we’re taking a holistic approach to nudge change to make a genuine (positive) impact for the user and the environment.