Eco Rating, an environmental rating system developed by Ihobe, is already being applied to smartphones from three continents

2022 March 2
  • The rating allows consumers to make comparisons and reveals which mobiles are kindest to the environment
  • Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefónica, Telia Company and Vodafone have lined up behind this initiative and are encouraging the rest of the world to follow suit

Almost a year since it was launched, the impact of the mobile phone environmental labelling known as Eco Rating, a methodology developed by Ihobe, the Basque Environment Agency, is being shown and discussed by operators during the Mobile World Congress.

It is estimated that 3,500 million people - almost half of the world’s population - use smartphones every day, and manufacturing them entails the use of massive amounts of scarce prime materials such as gold, cobalt and lithium. In addition, 80% of lifetime Greenhouse Gas emissions are allotted to the production.

Fortunately, smartphone consumers today are well aware of the environmental impact of producing, using and transporting these products and have increasingly the desire to choose a model that will contribute to driving more sustainable use. To help consumers to make these decisions regarding their mobile phones, they need an indication based on methods that provide a thorough, objective evaluation of the environmental impact of the entire life cycle of the device, from production to transport, disposal and recycling.

With this aim in mind, five of Europe's leading telephony operators (Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefónica, Telia Company and Vodafone) joined forces to update and launch a new industry-wide system called Eco Rating. This new method allows users to compare mobile phones to identify which are most respectful to the environment. This, in turn, encourages manufacturers to do their utmost to reduce the environmental impact of their handsets.

The Eco Rating methodology, which has been created using industry knowledge and best practices garnered in previous environmental rating projects, has been developed by Ihobe with technical support from Basque companies specialising in ecodesign and life cycle analysis. The terminal manufacturers also played a part in the project, using advanced European Union standards and laws (UIT-T, ETSI and ISO).

Based on information provided by the device manufacturers, products are assessed using a combination of 13 environmental indicators and six material efficiency criteria to obtain a single rating for each device. They are all based on a coherent, fair and objective life-cycle analysis.

The highest possible Eco Rating is 100 for the best environmental performance, so the closer to 100 your device, the more environmentally friendly it is. What’s more, this new labelling system provides guidance in five key areas:

  • Durability: looking at robustness, battery life and the guarantee period of the device and its components.
  • Potential for repair: considers the ease of repairing the device, including the design of the mobile phone and action that can be taken to increase the useful life of the product by improving and facilitating its repair, reuse and updating.
  • Recyclable potential: evaluates the possibility of dismantling and separating the components of the device for suitable recycling, and the information available regarding how to dissemble the parts.
  • Climate efficiency: measures the greenhouse gases emitted in connection with the device throughout its life cycle. The higher the score, the lower the environmental impact.
  • Efficient use of resources: this looks at the impact caused by consumption of raw materials to manufacture the device in terms of the scarcity of these resources; for example, the gold used to manufacture electronic components. The higher the score, the lower the impact on depleting the planet’s resources.

The Eco Rating seal is easy to recognise and is designed to give consumers coherent, accurate information, allowing them to compare smartphones and see which are the most sustainable. Each telephony operator will display the seal with the information about the device.

The scheme was launched for the first time in 24 European countries in 2021. The initiative has already spread to further countries in Europe, Latin America and Africa. So far, it is endorsed by 16 global manufacturers and for more than 150 devices, including phones made by Samsung, Xiaomi, Oppo, HMD/Nokia, and others.

These days, people want products that are kinder to the environment. With initiatives like Eco Rating, the Basque Country is showing its value as a global leader developing tools for advanced environ

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  • 2022 March 7

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Politicians attending the event
Other guests
  • Philippe Lucas ORANGE’s Executive Vice President Innovation Devices & Partnerships; Maya Ormazabal Herrero Telefonica’s Director of Environment and Human Rights & Melanie Kubin-Hardewig Deutsche Telekom’s Vice President Group Sustainability Management