Expecting to receive some kind of electronic gadget this holiday? A tablet, maybe a digital camera? How about a new smartphone? If that's the case then you may be waiting longer than you expected. One phone manufacturer announced recently that they won't be able to ship as many orders before the festive season as previously estimated. But the reasons for the delay are more than forgivable.
In the run up to Christmas, when most companies are falling over each other to extract as much as they can from their customer's wallets, others are bucking the trend, and keeping their focus firmly on people, not profits. Fairphone, the social enterprise that brought us the world's first ethically produced smartphone back in 2013, announced on their blog at the beginning of this month that their latest batch of phones - the new and updated Fairphone 2 - is taking longer to produce than expected. This means that they will ship fewer than originally planned in December, with the majority of the models not actually being delivered until the first half of January.
Conventional smartphone manufacturers have come under fire recently for their general lack of corporate social responsibilty: whether it's the continuing scandal surrounding the manufacture of products for Apple, or their irresponsible support of the mining of so-called conflict minerals, such as gold, tin and tungsten (minerals that are crucial to produce smartphones, but often have a huge negative impact on the local area where the extraction fuels violence and conflict). Unlike traditional electronics producers, the team at Fairphone does the best they can to ensure that their devices are designed and produced in a way that is as socially and environmentally responsible as possible. And in fact, that's the main reason behind this current hold-up: carefully sourcing materials and suppliers, and respecting both people and planet, takes a lot of time.
Announcing the news on their blog at the beginning of December, they explained the situation in simple terms. A delay in sourcing materials led to a hold-up in production, which means that the Chinese workers who assemble the product hadn't been supplied with the parts that they needed to do their work. Now that the parts are available and the production bottle neck has been cleared, work can continue, but the delay has to be moved down the supply chain. Other manufacturers would almost definitely look for ways to speed up production after a hiccup like this, (particularly with the increase in sales at this time of year): maybe by encouraging workers to take on excessive overtime, or hiring new ones on a short-time basis, and then letting them go again when they're no longer needed. But that's exactly what Fairphone don't want to do. Getting the phones out in time would mean jeopardising the hiring policy that Fairphone has with their Chinese manufacturing partner: these kind of practices just aren't consistent with the goals and beliefs of the Fairphone team, who want to offer factory employees a stable environment and job security. So it's simple: the phones aren't ready, but life goes on.
At this time of year, the season of peace on earth and goodwill to all mankind, Fairphone's decision seems more fitting than ever. And looking at the comments on their website, the majority of their customers seem to be in agreement too, praising the company for their transparency and their determination to stick to their principles. Because that's what this seems to be about when it comes down to it: the ability to prioritise human rights and respect over materialism and consumption. So if you have a Fairphone-shaped space under the tree this year, feel proud, because maybe it symbolises something more important: patience, understanding, respect for the wellbeing and happiness of others, and a healthy dose of peace of mind.