For the past decade, the mobile industry has been aware of its responsibility to drive green and sustainable working practices. Historically, the fact remains that a focus on sustainable and environmentally friendly practices has not always been conducive to delivering healthy profits.
Before the economic downturn in 2008, so called ‘green telecoms’ practices were rife. Many of the major network vendors were committed to delivering low-power base stations, investigating the use of renewable energy and fiercely promoting CSR. When the world was plunged into financial crisis, this green agenda became de-prioritized as the same vendors focused their efforts on how to effectively strip cost out of network operations.
Over the last few years, however, sustainable practice has moved back up the corporate agenda. The mobile industry has reminded itself of its duty to minimize environmental degradation and promote sustainable practice. The GSMA is setting the standard through its commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that draw together the many ways that the mobile industry contributes to a better world.
There are 17 sustainable development goals, outlined by the UN. By looking at each of them, HYLA can make a strong case for positively impacting 15 of them.
This is the direct result of us leading the global renewed device market and:
- Re-purposing more than 43 million devices
- Diverting 9,500 tons of e-waste from landfill
- Placing $3.5 billion in the hands of consumers that would have otherwise been lost
- Avoiding 51.5 billion gallons of groundwater pollution
- Bringing connectivity to 34.4 million previously ‘unconnected’ consumers
So how has the used device market been so successful when other green telecoms practices have been less so? It’s because every single stakeholder (operators, OEMS, retailers, governments, environmentalists) within it, has something to gain from being in it. It is an ecosystem built on commercial gain as much as environmental gain.
Everyone wins within the used device ecosystem
- Cost-savings for operators: For operators, not only does offering trade-in programs mean benefiting from the latent value in used devices, but encouraging customers to upgrade to a new device also means they upgrade to a new (and usually more expensive) tariff. In hard revenue terms, US carriers alone are estimated to gain more than $1 billion per year in additional revenue by collecting used devices through various channels. What’s more, many of the devices operators collect are retained and used to satisfy insurance and device warranty commitments – a huge cost saver versus purchasing new devices. Let’s not also forget that operators also benefit from retained customers and preserve the feel-good factor around their brand when they offer trade-in programs.
- Opportunities for OEMs: While historically devices have been collected by mobile operators, OEMs such as Samsung and Apple are beginning to initiate their own device buyback programs. Not only is this an opportunity for OEMs to increase revenues, but it also allows them to curb the rise of fake devices, as well as control the distribution of renewed devices. For the likes of Apple, providing a low-cost version of the iPhone can also provide a precious opportunity for millions of new subscribers who would typically be unable to stretch to the price of a new iPhone. Apple can also go head to head with low cost smartphones in India and China – devices that are sub $100 typically have inferior components in them and lack the full feature set of a high-end smartphone, thereby robbing the consumer of a good user experience.
- Returns for retailers: Leading retailers in the US, like Best Buy, Walmart and Target, have recognized that device trade-ins and buybacks is very much like the market for used cars, and is a mechanism to draw more people in-store, help drive the sales of new devices, as well as drive additional revenues on accessories.
- The environment matters: To date, hundreds of millions of devices around the world have been collected and vast quantities of e-waste and polluted water have been avoided thanks to device trade-ins and buybacks. According to David Michaud of 911 Metallurgist, producing a single smartphone requires 34 KG of ore to be mined. 18 out of the 34 KG is mined to extract gold, which requires 100 liters of water and 20.5 grams of cyanide to extract the precious metal from it. By repurposing millions of devices, the telecoms industry can divert 9500 tons of e-waste from landfills, avoid billions of gallons of groundwater from being polluted, and bring connectivity to millions of unconnected consumers.
So, there you have it. The secret to creating longevity with sustainable practice is to ensure there are strong commercial reasons for committing to it. The used device ecosystem really does have a lot to be proud of. To learn more about the latest trends in the mobile-trade in industry, don't miss our latest infographic from last quarter's data.