Amsterdam’s modular smartphone 

On 10 December, 2015, Amsterdam-based Fairphone won a UN Momentum for Change Award at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris. The prize was awarded (PDF) during the conference’s Sustainable Innovation Forum 2015 (COP21).

Fairphone is an Amsterdam-based company that makes ethical smartphones, based on conflict-free materials from mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Fairphone works closely with its manufacturers to improve the working conditions in the factories, and the profits are invested in social innovations within the electronics industry.

The first Fairphone, one of the first modular smartphones available for purchase, was launched in 2013. The Fairphone 2 was released at the end of 2015, and has been designed to be simply repaired and upgraded. This includes the ability to easily open and repair the most commonly broken parts, which results in a longer-lasting device that encourages owners to take more responsibility for keeping their phones in working order. Building a phone that lasts longer reduces the overall toll on people and the environment.

Amsterdam: The right location

As Fairphone founder Bas Abel has said, “Amsterdam is a good base to have an international company because it’s very easy for people to come here. If you look at the team here, there’s Nigerian, Spanish, German, Canadian, Romanian and American people.”

Fairphone’s approach of mixing innovation and social conscience also seems especially well fitted to Amsterdam, a city that is regularly listed as one of the greenest in the world, and among the ten most innovative.

About 60,000 Fairphones have been sold so far, and 20,000 Fairphone 2 units have been pre-ordered. Fairphone plans to produce and sell 140,000 smartphones per year starting in 2016.