The eco rating initiative - catalyst for change or greenwashing exercise?
Eco Rating (https://www.ecoratingdevices.com) is an initiative designed to inform consumers about the environmental impact of the phone they are looking to purchase. It’s a collaboration between telcos Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefónica (operating under the O2 and Movistar brands), Telia Company and Vodafone and 12 handset brands including Huawei, OnePlus, OPPO, Samsung and Xiaomi.The plan is to roll out the ratings across point of sale in 24 countries. Sounds good, right?
The concept sounds great. Handset manufacturers sign up and agree to have their mobiles reviewed and rated. The website looks very nice (well done So Design, Bristol) and it’s obviously a great cause.
However, there are a few question marks hanging over this initiative and 2 months on since its inception, progress looks a little sluggish.
Dude, where’s my rating?
The eco rating initiative promises lovely looking labels that will at some point appear in store (roll out across Europe was scheduled to start in June 2021) to help consumers understand how ‘green’ the phone on display is, and inform their overall buying decision.
The roll out will take some time of course but this should be easy enough to implement online. Given that most of us are buying online and upgrading our handsets through our telecom provider app, it should be the priority.
So far, no visible fanfare whatsoever.
If I were considering the new Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G, and might be swayed by the eco credentials, I could easily miss this rating. On both the O2 & Vodafone sites, it takes a lot of scrolling and clicking just to find the score alone. Even then, there is no breakdown by category and no click through option for more information. If this were something that both brand and telecom provider were proud of, wouldn’t there be better visibility?
Suggestion: a bright green sticker with the handset rating, breakdown of the scoring, and click through to a more detailed report :)
Where are the other brands?
There are some obvious names missing from the list and the question is why? Apple, Fairphone, Honest Mobile and others with a strong commitment to the sustainable cause are nowhere to be seen. Maybe they are ‘in the pipe’ but for the purposes of credibility, it would have made a difference to have had them on board from the outset.
A face to a name
It’s one thing for a brand to put their name to the eco rating scheme but who from these companies is putting their name to it? Judging by the website (and it’s the main point of reference for consumers), no one. Not a single quote from a senior telecom or mobile brand exec or point of contact listeid. No social media presence. Nothing.
The only statement I have found thus far is from a press release on the O2 website.
‘The Chief Executives of the five mobile operators – Tim Höttges (Deutsche Telekom), Stéphane Richard (Orange), José María Álvarez-Pallete (Telefónica), Allison Kirkby (Telia Company) and Nick Read (Vodafone Group) – together welcomed the launch of the Eco Rating Initiative:
“Building a more sustainable future is our joint responsibility, so we believe the time is right to drive a harmonised, industry-wide Eco Rating Scheme that will improve transparency and help raise awareness of the environmental impact of the phones that our customers choose.
“We look forward to welcoming more manufacturers and telecom operators to the Eco Rating initiative in the future, and we hope it will inspire the whole industry to accelerate its transition towards a more circular model for mobile phones.”
It seems odd that there is no point of contact, human face, collective mission statement, cheesy corporate group photo. It’s such an excellent initiative so where are the people behind it? It is a collective effort but at present it’s all too faceless and that needs to improve.
Where is the detailed report for the reviewed mobiles? Who conducted the review? Are there any consequences for a low rating? Where’s the list of the 80 or so phones that have been reviewed?
There is a distinct lack of information available and for the sustainably-minded consumer, that’s essential. Otherwise, it breeds distrust and suspicion.
There’s actually a very interesting organisation that’s managing the review process called EcoAct (part of Atos) and you can find more details about their consultancy work here - https://eco-act.com/life-cycle-assessment/eco-rating-mobile-phones/
But there’s no reference to them on the site at all (I had to do some digging). For me, seeing that this company is involved is an asset so why aren’t they mentioned?
For consumers to make an informed choice and start to better appreciate the environmental impact of a mobile phone, the Eco Rating Initiative needs to make it easy to understand, with plenty of information available should you want to go deeper into the reviews. The current format is anything but and while the initiative is welcome, it has a long way to go before it lives up to its name.