Samsung Tops Smartphone Eco Ratings

John Lister's picture

A program to rate the environmental impact of cell phones now covers 35 countries. But there's no sign yet of Eco Rating coming to North America.

The program has run since May 2021 and involved eight mobile carrier companies. They then ask handset manufacturers to answer questions about their devices. So far, more than 20 manufacturers have done so, with a total of more than 300 devices rated.

The rating aims to cover the environmental impact of every stage of a phone's life, starting with the raw materials and the manufacturing process. It also takes into account the distance and method of transport from the manufacturer to the country where it is sold.

Other factors include the expected lifespan of the device, the ease of repair, and how easy it is to recycle parts when the phone is no longer used. The rating only covers the device itself, though the program notes refurbishment programs and accessories such as protective sleeves both bring environmental boosts by reducing the demand for new devices.

Maximum Score Unlikely

Assessing the environmental impact involves 19 measures. The results are then combined into a score out of 100, with a higher score meaning a better environmental performance. A score of 100 is technically possible, but the criteria intentionally make it "very challenging for manufacturers to achieve." (Source: ecoratingdevices.com)

Manufacturers are then eligible to display an "Eco Rating" label that includes the over score, along with ratings for five more specific measures: durability, repairability, recyclability, climate efficiency and resource efficiency. There's no specific rating for energy use as the operators say this actually makes up only a small proportion of the total environmental impact of a phone.

At the time of writing, the highest score of 85 is shared by three handsets: the Fairphone 4, Samsung Galaxy A20 and Samsung Galaxy S21.

US Not Yet Involved

The people behind the program say it has already encouraged manufacturers to up their environmental game. That claim's something of a stretch as it's based on the average score rising from 74 up 76 since the program began.

The program began with support in 24 European countries. It's now expanded to Africa and South America, with Asia and Pacific support expected soon, starting with New Zealand. (Source: telefonica.com)

It's not clear why the program isn't yet in North America, though the people behind it say it's open to any carrier and manufacturer.

So far, it's been a carrier-led operation. The idea is that once a carrier signs up, they'll collect the relevant data from all the manufacturers whose devices use their network. In theory that would eventually mean almost all handsets have a rating before the public start using them.

What's Your Opinion?

Is this information useful? Would you like to see an "eco rating" when you are choosing a new handset? How much impact would it have on your purchasing decision?

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