How One New Zealand is helping Kiwis identify sustainable smartphones

One New Zealand

To coincide with Earth Day 2023 One New Zealand, supported by The New Zealand Telecommunications Forum (TCF), is announcing the introduction of a new consumer labelling framework to help New Zealanders identify more sustainable mobile phones when making retail purchases.

Eco Rating is an international initiative that evaluates the environmental and societal impact of smartphones and feature phones throughout the entire lifecycle of the device to produce an overall score. The highest possible Eco Rating score is 100 for maximum environmental performance and the closer the score is to 100, the better the environmental performance of the device.

One New Zealand

There are five sub-category scores for durability, repairability, recyclability, climate efficiency and resource efficiency that outline how each device performs in these specific areas. Currently, more than 20 mobile phone manufacturers provide Eco Rating data including Samsung, OPPO, Mobiwire and Alcatel.

“Creating a more sustainable Aotearoa is a responsibility that everyone can contribute to. As the first local telco to join this international industry-wide Eco Rating scheme, we’re providing New Zealanders with more transparency and the ability to reduce their environmental impact when choosing which phone to buy,” says One New Zealand, SME & Consumer Director, Chris Fletcher.

“The Eco Rating for each participating manufacturer and phone will be displayed in One New Zealand stores and online. There is also a simple comparison table online, so it is easy to understand how the ratings work and how each phone preforms.

“At launch, the vast majority of Android phones sold by One New Zealand will display an Eco Rating and we expect the number of participating phones will increase over time as the scheme continues to grow in use.

The Eco Rating Methodology

Using information provided by device manufacturers, Eco Rating was first introduced in Europe and applies a consistent evaluation methodology equally and objectively across 19 different criteria, culminating in a single score for each device. In addition, the Eco Rating provides guidance in five key areas:

Durability – The robustness of the device, the battery life and the guarantee period for the device and its components.
Repairability: Covers the ease with which the device can be repaired, including mobile phone design and supporting activities that could increase the useful life of the product by improving its reparability, reusability and upgradability potential. A higher the score indicates how these aspects are supported.
Recyclability – How well the device components can be recovered and disassembled, the provided information to allow it, and how well materials can be recycled.
Climate efficiency – The greenhouse gas emissions of the device during its whole lifecycle. The better the score, the lower the climate impact is.
Resource efficiency – Assesses the impact caused by the amount of scarce raw materials required by the device (for example the use of gold for the manufacturing of electronic components); the better the score, the lower the impact is towards the availability of materials.

“The scheme provides consistent, accurate information at a retail level on the environmental impact of producing, using, transporting, and disposing of smartphones. Our hope is that more customers choose phones with a higher Eco Rating, which will further encourage demand for more sustainable electronics,” says Fletcher.

Telecommunications industry support

Eco Rating is supported locally by the New Zealand Telecommunications Forum (TCF), which manages the RE:MOBILE Product Stewardship Scheme for mobile phones.

RE:MOBILE’s aim is to reduce the environmental impact of unwanted mobile handsets and limit the number of devices being dumped in landfills. Participants include mobile operators, retailers and local recycling partners and our appointed charity, Sustainable Coastlines.

The Telecommunications Forum CEO Paul Brislen says the Scheme is designed to minimise the impact of rare earth minerals in our environment and the Eco Rating programme aligns with that objective.

“The Eco Rating initiative is international in scope and provides a harmonised measurement based on international standards for the environmental impact of phones. By using Eco Rating in conjunction with RE:MOBILE we hope customers can be better informed when purchasing a new mobile phone and about the impact of phones and devices that are no longer in use.”

The telecommunications sector is strongly committed to responsible management of electronic devices, which includes helping consumers make more sustainable decisions when purchasing new phones via Eco Rating plus recycling older mobile phone devices via RE:MOBILE.

Established in Europe, now in New Zealand

The development and management of the scheme began with a consortium of five European mobile operators including Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefónica (operating under the O2 and Movistar brands), Telia Company and Vodafone Group. It launched in May 2021.

As of November 2022, it encompasses eight operators in Europe, Africa and South America, plus now One New Zealand. Other New Zealand operators are being encouraged to join the scheme.

The Eco Rating methodology builds on industry knowledge and best practice gathered through previous environmental labelling initiatives. It has been developed with technical support and supervision from IHOBE (a publicly-owned agency specialised in Economic Development, Sustainability and the Environment), with the participation of device suppliers, using the latest standards and guidelines from the European Union, ITU-T, ETSI and ISO with new parameters introduced where appropriate.