Eco-Rating of Mobile Phones – an Important Day for CSR in Armenia!

In June 2012, Orange launched the eco-rating of mobile phones in its shops in Armenia and online store.  To some extent, this was a landmark moment for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in the country and here’s why.

 

But first things first – what is eco-rating?  To put it simply, it is a way for customers to know more about the mobile phone they are considering to buy, specifically the environmental impact that is associated with making that particular product.  You can read more about the specific methodologies that are used by Orange, Vodafone, O2 and AT&T  – they’re different from company to company, but the basic purpose is the same.  If you’re a customer who is concerned about the environment, you are now better armed to make an informed choice about the next mobile phone you will buy.

So why was this such an important moment for CSR in Armenia?  First of all, at this stage there are only a handful of countries in the world where eco-rating has been established.  Orange had earlier introduced eco-rating in France, Romania and Spain, Vodafone had launched it in the Netherlands in 2011 and Hungary in 2012, O2 had introduced it in the UK in 2010.  And, most recently, AT&T launched the concept in the US.  This list is probably not exhaustive, but I’m sure the full list is bigger by only a few more countries.  So Armenia has joined quite a select number of countries and when that list inevitably increases over the following years, the Armenian consumer can claim to have been among the first to make a choice including consideration of environmental impact.

The second reason why this is such an important ‘CSR moment’ for Armenia is that this is a perfect example of what has been called ‘strategic CSR’ by many authors (and what, in fact, is the only kind of real CSR, according to many others).  That is to say – this is far from a philanthropic project and it is also not a case where a corporation doles out money to an NGO and asks them to do a project for the PR value of it.  Yes, Orange Armenia is also including a cause-related marketing component by pledging 1% of all phones sold to environmental projects by WWF Armenia, but one should not let that detract from the inherent sustainability value of eco-rating.  This is a chance for anyone in Armenia to understand what a textbook example of CSR is – a company looking closely at its value chain and finding a way to minimize its impact on the environment or society.

And why is eco-rating important at all?  That depends on who you are and what you believe.  I believe that companies look very closely and consumer demand.  It will take time, but if consumers in Armenia (and all the other countries with eco-rating) start to ask for devices that are more environmentally friendly, then companies will work that into the development cycle of their future products.  I believe that there will come a time when there will be peer pressure to have a more environmentally friendly phone and you will be frowned upon for having the equivalent of the mobile world’s “gas guzzlers” the same way you might be criticized today by some friends for leaving the lights on in an empty room or wasting paper.  It’s definitely early days in Armenia (including for the ‘lights on’ and ‘paper wasting’ things) but this is a first step – and an important one at that.

Now the ball is in the consumer’s court.  I’m interested in hearing from you (wherever you are, but more so if you’re in Armenia) – is the eco-rating of a phone something you consider when buying it?  What as a consumer do you need, to be more environmentally friendly?

This entry was posted in CSR in Armenia.

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