Half of Brits say they would now buy a greener smartphone

(Image credit: O2)

More than half of British smartphone users say they would be more likely to choose a device that is rated better for the environment, highlighting the increasing influence of sustainability on the industry.

A new study from O2 found 56% consider it important that their next phone is eco-friendly – a figure that increases to 75% among 16–24-year-olds.

Two fifths (38%) of all users would ever consider buying a handset that had inferior specifications if it had less of an environmental impact.

Sustainable smartphones

Every new device manufactured generates carbon emissions across the supply chain and requires the mining of precious metals. If these devices aren’t resold, recycled, or are disposed of irresponsibly, then emissions will rise, waste will increase and hazardous materials could be released into the environment.

Overall, the survey revealed that consumers are becoming more aware of the impact of the smartphone industry on the environment and that their purchasing decisions were being influenced by a sense of greater responsibility.

Battery life (62%) remains the most important consideration when choosing a new handset, followed by price (60%), but durability (47%) and recyclability (29%) are among the top five factors. Brand is only important for 26%, highlighting that manufacturers cannot rely on loyalty.

To help customers, O2 has signed up to an Eco Rating labelling scheme that gives each device a score out of 100 at the point of sale. This score calculates the cost of producing, using, transporting and disposing the device and is based on five key criteria.

The twelve manufacturers that have signed up are Bullitt Group, which makes CAT and Motorola rugged phones, Doro, HMD Global (which makes Nokia phones under licence), Huawei, MobiWire, Motorola/Lenovo, OnePlus, Oppo, Samsung, TCL/Alcatel, Xiaomi and ZTE. Apple is the major absentee, meaning iPhones won’t be included in the scheme.

“It’s so encouraging to hear that the majority of us are pushing sustainability up our wish lists when thinking about a new phone,” declared Nicola Green, Chief Communications and Corporate Affairs Officer at Virgin Media O2.

“It’s what our new Eco Rating labelling is all about: making it easier to compare the eco credentials of handsets in our stores or online. Back in 2010, O2 launched the first Eco Rating scheme for phones, and it’s great to see that more than ten years on, younger people are leading the charge when it comes to greener tech purchases. As sustainability becomes as important as tech specs or brand for many, we’re here to make greener choices easier for everyone.”

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.