Q&A with Daria Koreniushkina, Public Engagement at Fairphone
Q: What makes you stand out?
A: We are building a movement for fair electronics so making phones is not our end goal rather, a phone for us is a tool to motivate the entire electronics industry to address environmental and social issues in the supply chain. Most companies in the industry already address different issues in one way or another but sustainability and ethics are not usually at the core of their business models. Fairphone (FP) is a social enterprise so for us sustainability of income has to go hand in hand with our social mission. We’re still at the start of our journey towards a fair phone; we try to be as transparent as possible and never claim something is fair if we haven’t achieved fairness yet. It’s also critical to remain financially independent to retain our social mission; it’s our customers who enable us to finance our very capital intensive operations. When they buy the phone, they join the movement.
Q: Why do you care?
A: We have a really motivated team, which is amazing. Before FP I worked in business; I like the way business can drive you to be creative and innovative but at FP I have found it to be so much more inspirational to have social change as the main goal.
Q: Is being responsible good for business?
A: In May 2013 we started a crowdfunding campaign and put a video on our website that explained that we wanted to produce a phone that would be the starting point for building a movement for fair electronics. We’d never produced a phone before but we told people that if they wanted to be part of the change then please pre-order a 325 euros phone to enable us to produce it. More than 10,000 people pre-ordered non-existing phones in the first month! Nobody had even seen it! It was a mid-range smartphone – not cutting-edge – so people wanted the phone because they believed in our mission.
Q: Has the business changed you?
A: Definitely. We chose a phone because it’s easy for people to relate to; the supply chain behind the smartphone is global, so complex and 100s of actors are involved in making the phone. Our mission is to change the relationship between people and products, and this is what happened to me. I try to consume less and to make more responsible choices. It’s a step-by-step process because it’s really challenging for a consumer; we don’t always have all the information we need and sometimes there isn’t an ethical option. We also encourage people to ask questions.
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: I work a lot with external stakeholders – journalists, event organisers, NGOs, museums, academic institutions – and a lot of people say how inspired they are by what we are trying to do. It started as a campaign against conflict minerals in our phones, gadgets and devices before it evolved into a business. Campaigning and raising awareness is still at the core of Fairphone. We want to create a market for ethical products; greater demand will motivate the entire industry to improve their supply chain.
Q: Plans for the future?
A: We have just launched a new Fairphone and this time we made our own original design from scratch because, thanks to 60,000 buyers of the first edition Fairphone, we now have the finances and the staff; we’ve gone from 5 to 38 employees. So we’ve been able to choose suppliers aligned with our values and our main focus this time has been on long-lasting use. But there is so much work still to do. In terms of creating a fair electronic supply chain, thousands of things still need to be improved.