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Social, economic forces: a tug of war for 'green' handsets

Posted: 03 Dec 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:handset green? economic social forces? wireless?

Most mobile handset vendors acknowledge public pressure to create environmentally sound products. It is an issue they need to continue to address through their corporate responsibility charters. Faced with the economic realities of "going green," however, the vendors' appetite for creating biodegradable and recyclable products from sustainable resources often fades like a wireless signal in an underground parking lot.

"Several proof products that epitomize a vendor's best greening efforts are currently being marketed," said ABI Research director Kevin Burden. "But our research found that very few handset manufacturersexcept those with the scale to do it economically such as Samsung and Nokiaare highly motivated to produce lines of green phones. Instead, the effort is toward compliance and the trickling down of proven green elements throughout entire product lines."

Recycling programs
Scale is the key concept. Despite the vast numbers of phones that are produced and discarded every year, few vendors are working on the kind of scale that makes entire green product lines economically viable in their view.

Most mobile handset vendors do have recycling programs, but less than 5 percent of the annual worldwide volume of handsets shipped come back through recycling or ethical disposal programs. Regulatory pressures, coupled with corporate and social responsibilities, have forced the issue for most manufacturers. Many toxic substances have been legally banned, and other substances known to threaten human health and the environment are being phased out voluntarily by many manufacturers.

Burden concludes: "A 2008 Nokia survey indicated that 76 percent of their respondents are more likely to buy phones from companies they consider environmentally responsible. That is a potential economic benefit, but hard to measure. As vendors move green features toward a platform approach for broader implementation, that is when negative economic factors flatten and the environment truly wins."

The research brief "Mobile Handset Green Initiatives" explores the issues surrounding the manufacture and recycling of environmentally friendly mobile handsets. It identifies the key players and discusses their green initiatives, and concludes with a summary of the latest regulatory requirements and other factors affecting this market.

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