AT&T To Launch Eco-Rating System For Mobile Devices

AT&T announced last week that it will launch a new eco-rating system later this year. A press release states specifically that the launch will occur “in a few months.” The system is being developed with BSR, a global business network and consultancy. It will allow consumers to find AT&T eco-ratings “on simple, easy-to-read and understand labels appearing on AT&T branded mobile devices.” The press release makes big claims about the system, including that it “sets an example for industry-wide sustainability efforts.”

A blog post states that the rating will be “based on a tiered scale.” The overall rating will represent “the composite score of key environmental characteristics” The ratings system will cover environmentally preferable materials, energy efficiency, responsible end-of-life treatment and environmentally-responsible manufacturing. Device manufacturers will submit an assessment of each device so it can be determined how many of the 15 key criteria are met.

Conflict minerals included in key criteria

One of the 15 criteria includes the “restriction of compounds such as lead, cadmium, mercury, nickel and antimony trioxide/antimony compounds.” That is very interesting, not to mention important. The majority of electronics we use daily, including cell phones, are manufactured with tantalum, tungsten and gold, which are often referred to as “conflict minerals.” Most of the minerals are mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and often they are mined using forced or child labor.

The DRC “has been plagued by regional conflict and a deadly scramble for its vast natural resources” for over a century, according to the NGO, Raise Hope for Congo. The conflict minerals finance “multiple armed groups, many of whom use mass rape as a deliberate strategy to intimidate and control local populations, thereby securing control of mines, trading routes, and other strategic areas.”

The militias earn hundreds of millions of dollars by trading the ores that produce tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold. In turn, the money allows the militias to buy weapons to “continue their campaign of brutal violence against civilians, with some of the worst abuses occurring in mining areas.”

In an article I wrote for Triple Pundit in November, I mentioned a campaign launched in November by Praxis Mutual Funds and Everence Financial which called on electronics manufacturers and retailers to “pursue ways to end the conflict minerals industry.” The campaign also invited customers of the four major cell phone providers (AT&T, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile and Verizon) to email the companies and express their concern over the use of conflict minerals in their cell phones.

The campaign is ongoing, and continues to call on cell phone users to email their providers to voice “concerns about the human impacts of the metals used in our products.”

It is interesting that AT&T’s press release about the eco-ratings system states that it “is a direct response to customer wants and needs.” Perhaps the campaign has influenced AT&T to incorporate the amount of the conflict minerals contained in mobile devices into the eco-rating systems.

Photo credits: Wikipedia user, Brownings

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by

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