“A phone that feels fair“

It is an object which we use almost every day. Most of us use it for our chatting and surfing the web, for music and taking photos. And still it is useful for calling people.

The smart phone has revolutionised our methods of communication to an incredible degree within the last 5-10 years. Being without one feels almost impossible as it seems to gives us a feeling of connectedness and provides access to informations around the clock. We might feel lost without it. Besides using it for our communication, it became an important tool for people all over the world to document important political and social revolutions, so that we far away from the scenery get an impression what it means to be inside of the storm. We are not anymore observer. We become witnesses.

A phone is not anymore just a highly developed device, it is the interface through which we experience our world.

In 2014 there were 7.2 billion mobile devices in existence. At the same time 7.19 billion humans were living on earth. It took our evolution around 14 billion years to create our human population but us only three decades to create the same amount of mobile devices.


Most of our electronic “trash” ends up in Africa. We need to clean up this situation. (photo owned by Fairphone)

These numbers are absolutely overwhelming and hard to imagine. But we have to go beyond the numbers and have to ask a more important question:  What are smart phones actually made of and who is involved in their production?

I have to admit that for a long time I never really thought about it and just took it all for granted.


Founder of Fairphone Bas van Abel – (photo owned by Fairphone)

The story of Fairphone started six years ago.  Bas van Abel, Peter van der Mark and Gerno Kwaks were creating a campaign to raise awareness for so called “conflict minerals”. Four important metals are derived from these minerals: columbite-tantalite, also known as coltan (from which tantalum is derived), cassiterite (tin), gold and wolframite (tungsten).


Conflict minerals, minded mainly in the eastern part of Democratic Republic Congo – (graphic owned by Fairphone)

More than 70% of the worlds tantalum production is flowing into electronic components. That is one main reason why mining is still a growing economic sector, as it is being driven by the worlds hunger for these minerals.

Conflict minerals are mined mainly in the eastern part of the Congo by local artisan miners, under conditions of armed conflict and human rights abuses. The reasons for these inhuman conditions are many and varied: incompetence of the government to control its commands, conflicts related to the control over the the mines and the smuggling routes, and also simply the history of the country, which is impregnated with bloody conflicts and wars.

As these conflicts take place on different levels, there is no single solution to all of it. But you have to start somewhere, and that is what Fairphone does.

“If you can’t open it, you don’t own it.” Bas van Abel

open phone

Have you ever wondered how your phone is built? – (photo owned by Fairphone)

Fairphone is on the one side a highly developed smart phone which is competitive with any other phone from a bigger brand. But on the other side, which is significantly much more important, it is a socially driven enterprise, which aims to change our ethical standards regarding responsible and sustainable supply chains for our great tech products. But how do they do that?

Fairphone concentrates on 5 main projects through which a sustainable business is created.

  • Mining: integration of responsible minded minerals, mainly from the DRC (Democratic Republic Congo), increasing employment and working conditions in these regions for a higher economic and social stability
  • Design: creating a product which is easy to repair, which is an open source product, opened for your own developments
  • Manufacturing: support of a human friendly production process in the factories and giving the workers a voice for their rights and ideas
  • Lifecycle: encourage a longer use of phones and a more extensive recycling of used ones
  • Social Entrepreneurship: engagement with consumers by giving mini workshops and hosting discussions

 The aim of the company is to have an end to end opened product, from the mining in Africa to the consumer in Europe and in the end to connect us as humans. If you want to know more about their projects, please check out their web page.

The success of the last 5 years gives the team the endorsement to continue with their work. This year Fairphone will jump into the market a second time with the release of Fairphone2. With over 20.000 phones, which are already pre-ordered, the success of the Fairphone2 seems to be assured. The big new feature of this phone will be the implementation of 2 sim card slots. The use of dual SIM is already widely spread in Asia but here in Europe we are locked to the system the providers offer and that is far from ideal.

Fairphone2 wants to challenge that and wants to give us greater control over our devices and to make the use of multiple phones obsolete.

“An economy that connects us all but lost its human values.” Bas van Abel

Fairphone is such a valuable enterprise and movement as it does not just offer full product transparency but also because of its socially driven attitude to connect us all over the world and to raise our responsibility for the resources which mother earth provides us with.

go for it

Greetings from Kolwezi – (photo owned by Fairphone)

The future of our economies must be driven by human values and not market interests and Fairphone is showing us what we can do about it.

Fairphone has already sold until today over 60.000 phones. The goal for 2016 is 140.000.

I already know which phone I will buy next, and you?

All the photos, which I used for this blog post, are the property of Fairphone. I want to thank Fairphone for the generous sharing of their photos at Flickr.


Start with Why

“They are those who understand the art before the science. They win hearts before minds. They are the ones who start with why.”

In my first blog post I would like to write about a book that has impressed me significantly. It deals with the idea of how leaders can inspire us to our greatest potential. The book is called “START WITH WHY” and was written by Simon Sinek, an American author and motivational speaker.

I came across his book after watching Simon`s famous TEDx talk from 2009 about how great leaders inspire action, which really struck a chord with me. When I first watched his talks, I was working at a place where inspiration and great leadership were absolutely missing. Already after watching the talk I could have pinned down the miserable actions, which led to a non-existing working culture at my then current working place. In consequence I have quit my job and moved on.

The great thing about Simons idea, how to inspire people, is its simplicity. He named it the “Golden Circle”, which describes how great leaders and successful companies communicate and act. The principle, based on the golden ratio, is always the same: first you say why you do it, then you make clear how you do it and finally you say what you are doing. You communicate from the inside out. This pattern was found to be repeated by very successful companies over and over again. And it makes sense. Simon makes this phenomenon quite clear through a comparison. One computer company says: “We have developed a great computer with many great tools, it is the best, wanna buy one?” The other company starts like this: “We believe in making a difference, we believe in the power of each individual. By believing in this we started to create a product with a great design. Wanna buy one? “

The reason why products are made and why companies exist, that is the primary reason that we follow them.

Simon covers many outstanding companies and individuals in his talks and that’s why I`d like to highlight just want to highlight just one.  The quote I love most is about Martin Luther King. He says “Dr. Martin Luther King gave his “I have a dream speech” and not “I have a plan” speech.” And when we hear these days our politicians talking about the 12 points plan to get ride of our countries debts, or how to increase employment, it just does not sound very much inspiring. It does not create a change.

Martin Luther King was able to move 250.000 people on August the 28th 1963 to Washington to hear his speech. And how did he do that in times of no exciting online social media to send invitations? He simply started with the belief to change the country for the better, excluding nobody. He simply started with Why. On the other side, why did the people show up? Here Simon makes for me a very interesting statement. He claims that a quarter of a million people did not show up for Mr. King. They showed up for themselves. They were there because of their beliefs and finally found a leader who was able to transform their desires into words. Great Leaders can exactly communicate what we might call “it feels right”. They know how to spread the ideas.

“Great companies don’t hire skilled people and motivate them, they hire already motivated people and inspire them.”

Another aspect of successful organizations and companies is their recruitment strategy. This is an issue which has duelled in my mind for several months and where I feel a strong need of action in our economy. And I completely agree with Simon`s ideas about it. His point is, if you want to have a great company that runs well, then you need to employ who believe in your vision and not those who simply have a brilliant looking CV. I was always convinced that you should never only judge people’s abilities by their grades or CVs. This is a false track and leads to nowhere, because these are simply pieces of paper. They cannot give you a clear idea who this person really is and how he or she will perform in your company.

I think this is a real issue at the present. I once attended a presentation of a recruitment company about application strategies and what companies are looking for. The conclusion was that they only look for “buzz words” in your resume, which they can filter via specific algorithms to search out the optimum candidate for the position. That really hit me because in the end it means you are completely reduced to the words you choose and nothing more. No room is left for personality or the Chemistry between people. The lady who gave the talk had to admit that one company took an applicant, who was not favoured and recommended by the recruitment experts, simply because the chemistry between the applicant and HR matched.

You want to hire motivated people who are really interested in your work, not “buzz people”.

In my perspective, great leaders meet you at “eye level” when they want to hire you, because they know that it is mainly about your performance and inspiration that will drive the success of the company. They know the Why.

 “Leadership is always about people.”

One last topic I want to write about, which Simon covers in his book is: why do people stick with great companies. The following quote makes it quite clear: “Great organizations become great because the people inside the organization feel protected. The strong sense of culture creates a sense of belonging and acts like a net.” This is a very interesting but not completely new approach. I think on the level of intuition we all know how it feels to be in the right place or not. But we might not know why we felt that way. Simon gives us here one good explanation. Deep within us we are seeking for this feeling of protection and trust to be able to fulfil our potential. Great leaders understand the need of trust and they know how to build it. For some companies this might sound too exhausting and does not deliver increasing sales numbers in the short term. But here is the thing, you have to invest in trust if you want to have long-term success. So many companies just focus on the numbers and how to double the sales volume in the next 6 months. That is not sustainable, that is manipulative and money driven. It will not deliver a long lasting feeling of motivation in your employees. Because again, it is just about what and not why.

In summary, I can really recommend the book if you would like to go a little bit more in depth about his ideas and collection of examples of successful companies, next to Apple. But in many ways he describes the same ideas several times. For my taste it could have been 50 pages shorter. If you just watch his talks, that already will give you an idea about the Why.

He is a great speaker and knows how to inspire. I don`t know if he would call himself a leader, but he definitely hit the “zeitgeist” and inspired me deeply. It is obvious that he wants to share his vision.

“If this book inspired you, please pass it on to someone you want to inspire.”

And so I tried it my way. I hope you found some inspiration within and can pass it on to somebody else, who needs a bit of inspiration.