For mobile phone companies, the challenge of sustainability means maximising the positive, enabling effect of mobile technology, while minimizing the possible negative affect of such activities. A new report tackling these issues has recently been published.
According to Nokia CEO Stephen Elop, “Nokia strongly believes that access to communication and information is a right, not a privilege. Mobile communications technology has the power to strengthen public life and the role of citizens around the globe, and it has proven time and again that it can democratize the spread of information. This belief, this ethos, runs deep within all of our employees, and we had numerous examples of this on display in 2011.”
25 000 students benefited in 2011
Mr Elop added that: “In South Africa, we are very proud of the achievements of Nokia Mobile Mathematics, a free-of-charge service that turns your mobile device into a text and exercise book. Students get access to theory and a database of thousands of exercises, solutions, and competitions. Nokia has found that students using this service have shown improvement in their grades, and teachers have gained better understanding of their pupils’ strong and weak points. In 2011, 25 000 Grade 10 students benefited from the solution, and Nokia plans to double this in 2012 to reach 50,000 Grade 10 and 11 students.”
Nokia is uniquely placed to support people through its core business. Access to communication and information has huge benefits for people. They hope to bring these benefits to the ever-increasing number of people worldwide, by connecting another billion people to the internet and information. Mobile technology can be harnessed to help in global sustainability challenges, having both major sustainability as well as business potential. Nokia already improves peoples’ lives through services enabling improved education, health and livelihood. With their products, they also positively contribute to accessibility, human rights and safety.
finding solutions for Africa’s electronic waste
Nokia is also active in driving environmental sustainability, working both with governments as well as other multinational companies. As the number of mobile devices in the world increases, so does the concern about electronic waste from old devices. This fact, combined with a finite supply of raw materials available for producing new phones, demonstrates that the end-of-life of mobile devices is a major issue that impacts across the mobile phone industry. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, about 50 million tonnes of electronic waste is generated each year, and E-waste is the fastest growing waste stream. Currently, the challenge is to show people that recycling phones is both easy and beneficial to their own survival and the survival of the planet.
Nokia commissioned a report in 2011 which showed that in Kenya, only 14% of citizens are aware that mobile phones can be recycled, and only 2% actually recycle their old mobile phones. They followed this up with a campaign to drive awareness around mobile recycling, including advertising, press conferences, and an outreach to bloggers and citizens. Surveys show that Nokia is seen as the greenest brand in Kenya.
This is part of a broader global effort: Nokia operates the world’s largest voluntary take-back program for old mobile devices, with more than 6,000 collection points in almost 100 countries. They accept all brands of phones, which are then collected and sent to approved Nokia recyclers, where they are recycled in a sustainable manner. Also, all their mobile phones are made using materials that can be recovered and reused, and which generate energy in the recycling process.
improving environmental & social performance
Nokia has thousands of direct and indirect suppliers. This gives them a great responsibility, so in addition to environmental requirements, they are committed to ensuring the highest standards of social responsibility throughout their supply chain.
‘Some suppliers are more advanced than others in managing their operations sustainably, which means Nokia’s approach must meet different needs and build capacity over time. The challenge is that the supply chain is long and complex – for example there are typically four to eight supplier layers between Nokia and any mining activities – and active work to increase transparency is needed in all these layers.
Nokia is focused on honing the direction that they give their suppliers, and measuring their performance. This ensures that their suppliers closely follow their comprehensive set of requirements for environmental and social performance.
The vast majority of Nokia devices’ environmental impact comes from their supply and logistics chain. They work closely with their service providers to mitigate this. Their main focus is on energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, waste generation, water use and recycling. They encourage their direct suppliers to set reduction targets and then they follow up on their performance. They also require supplier sites to be ISO 14001 certified.
According to Mr Elop, “Like all Nokia employees, I take great pride in the work we do to improve people’s lives around the world. And yet, in many areas, we’ve only scratched the surface in terms of what we can do.”
For example, the renewable energy market has developed more slowly than expected. That said, Nokia still showed progress on this front in 2011, installing fuel cells at their facility in Sunnyvale in the U.S. and a small biofuel station in Chennai, India. Nokia has increasingly purchased green electricity since 2006, and in 2011 their renewable electricity share was equal to 40%, which reduced their CO₂ emissions by 54,500 tonnes.