As top dog when it comes to building phones, Samsung has the most to gain when it comes to profitable sustainability.
Samsung is, by all accounts, one of the biggest companies in tech. It consistently ranks among the top three phone manufacturers every year, and more importantly builds some of the key parts inside its top two rivals’ devices. Samsung makes all kinds of tech products that aren’t phones or phone parts, either — even heavy artillery. Yes, even massive war machine weaponry needs technological mastery to work well.
Because of this, Samsung probably saves enough money each year by using recycled products to feed a small country. While I would love to see Samsung take a year-long hiatus from making tech and feed some hungry people, what’s important to the people in charge is the saving money part. Recycling is a big part of sustainability, but it’s also a way to cut down on costs — especially when you’re as big as Samsung and actively recycle everything yourself.
Equally important to the people in Samsung’s “front office” is the positive public relations that come along with creating sustainable products. Like the Galaxy S22, which Samsung says is its most sustainable phone ever. I don’t doubt this is true, and I imagine a large amount of aluminum, plastic, copper, and other materials are recycled. Samsung says it’s even using recycled fishnets in the process, though there isn’t a lot of detail about what kinds of nets are being recycled and what they are made from, so I am a little skeptical.
Anyway, what’s important is that Samsung can say it’s doing better with the S22 because it is doing better with the S22. We want (and really, need) companies like Samsung to do a better job when it comes to selling sustainable products. But sustainability is about more than recycling cans or fishnets — it’s about humanitarianism, it’s about economics, and it’s about the future. Samsung is doing better than some companies, but I want to see more.
Your smartphone, whether it’s a cheap-ass model, an iPhone, or one of the best Android phones money could possibly buy, starts in the dirt. That’s where the majority of the raw materials used to build a thing of metal and glass come from, and really it’s the most important place to start when it comes to building a sustainable product.
Recycling is a big step, but not everything can be recycled, and sometimes there just isn’t enough recycled material available, so back into the dirt we go. I’ve never been inside a Samsung factory of any sort but I have seen rare-earth metal mining in action. Sometimes it’s high-tech with billions of dollars worth of automated equipment dredging up things like copper or zinc. Other times, it is very poor people in the third world digging up cobalt by hand. In both cases, it’s very important that companies who depend on these materials demand they are ethically sourced. That means livable wages, proper safety equipment at all times, and all tariffs/taxes/fees get paid to the governments that demand them, even if we feel they do not deserve it.
Some materials are renewable, and the biggest one of all is paper. Your phone might not have a lot of paper inside of it, but the packaging is almost all paper, and the trail it generates from manufacture into your hands makes plenty of paper too. Even in 2022. The companies that Samsung buys its paper products from should be using well-known conversation and reforesting techniques to offset the damage done by cutting down a whole lot of trees every year. This goes for other renewables like rubber and fibers. These too need to be ethically sourced.
Chances are, Samsung does a lot of this already. No company wants to be the one who is caught buying from material vendors who run child-slave mines or who have cheated a country out of millions in taxes, so it’s a wise idea to do the right thing even if it means a little less profit. Samsung does have a section on its website about its sustainability efforts but I’ll bet that almost nobody reading this knows about it.
That’s the real issue here. Samsung isn’t making a big deal about it and telling us. I want to know that the Galaxy S22 doesn’t have a battery that uses metals mined by kids in Africa. You might not know it, but neither do you — trust me, I’ve seen the damages first hand. Tell us Samsung. You get to toot your horn and we can feel a little bit better about our rampant consumerism.