Smartphone OEM sustainability approach: What is it, who leads the market and more

Smartphone OEMs have been adopting a sustainable approach to reduce the impact on the environment. This approach includes reusing materials, recycling devices and minimising waste at each stage – from the design of the smartphone, processing chips, and packaging to power consumption. On the basis of this approach, a report has said that smartphone sustainability is touching new highs, however, the industry may be a long way from achieving its targets.
Who leads the market?
Apple leads the smartphone market in the overall approach towards sustainability, followed by Samsung. The companies are leading across the three major stages of the smartphone circular economy – production of smartphones, their usage and end of life.
As per a report by Counterpoint Research, Apple tops the list when it comes to longevity, updates and innovations toward sustainability. Samsung gets the second spot in repair, energy efficiency and after-sales network departments.
The market research firm claims that the production of a smartphone is the most vital stage as it is responsible for about 80% of the total carbon footprint in its life cycle. It says that newly-sourced materials used to make smartphones are being replaced with eco-friendly components as biodegradable and eco-friendly packaging is a norm now.
Striking a balance
As per the report, while OEMs are motivating customers to purchase new, technologically advanced smartphones, they are also looking to strike a balance in order to save the environment.
“Due to sustainability efforts, OEMs have to maintain a balance between enticing the consumer and saving the environment. Chinese leaders like OPPO, Xiaomi, and vivo are consistently trying to improve battery life and energy efficiency,” said Glen Cardoza, senior research analyst, at Counterpoint Research.
End of life support
The report says that OEMs have a lot to do when it comes to reclaiming their smartphones once their usable life comes to an end.
“Getting pre-owned smartphones back into the system is necessary to handle them sustainably. They need to be repaired/refurbished for reuse or recycled responsibly to complete the circular loop. The main objective here is to reduce e-waste. It is vital to know how much OEMs are doing for this cause,” the report added.
Even though retail refurbishment players are growing (15% in 2021 on year-over-year basis) it is OEMs that have to work on their limited reclamation, refurbishment, and e-waste reduction. The highest potential to achieve is initiatives like trade-ins ensuring a buyback of the older devices, the report said.
“Brands like OPPO, Vivo and Xiaomi have a long way to go with reclaiming and refurbishing devices if we consider the volume of new smartphones shipped by them every year. Apple and Samsung lead here as well but most of the reclaiming and refurbishing are done by the other players in the secondary ecosystem,” the report said.

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