What is Eco Rating?
Eco Rating evaluates the environmental impact of the entire process of production, transportation, use and disposal of mobile phones.
- Helps customers to make informed and more sustainable choices
- Encourages suppliers to reduce the environmental impact of their devices
- Aligns the industry in improving transparency and reducing its environmental footprint
The Eco Rating evaluation assesses devices’ different environmental indicators (e.g. carbon footprint or resource depletion) and material efficiency criteria, which results in an overall score on a scale from 1 to 100. The closer the score is to 100, the better the sustainability performance of the device.
The harmonized environmental scoring system for mobile phones
Why introduce Eco Rating now?
Mobile phone consumers are increasingly aware of how the device choices they make can contribute to minimising climate impact and lead to a more environmental sustainable industry.
Building a more sustainable future is our joint responsibility. The consortium behind Eco Rating believes the time is right to launch a harmonised, industry-wide Eco Rating that will improve transparency and help raise awareness of the environmental impact of the phones we supply, and our customers choose.
We are convinced that Eco Rating can motivate and inspire the whole mobile industry to accelerate its transition towards a more circular model for mobile phones.
The Eco Rating scores the environmental performance of mobile phones based on an objective assessment of both life cycle and circular economy indicators.
The highest possible Eco Rating score is 100 for maximum environmental performance. The closer the score is to 100, the better the environmental performance of the device. In addition, the Eco Rating provides guidance in five key areas: durability, repairability, recyclability, climate efficiency and resource efficiency.
The Eco Rating label is easily recognisable and is designed to give consumers consistent, accurate information, helping them to identify and compare the most sustainable mobile phones. Each participating mobile operator will display the Eco Rating on device information at point of sale.
Covers the robustness of the device, the battery life and the guarantee period of the device and its components.
Covers the ease with which the device can be repaired, including mobile phone design and supporting activities that could increase the useful life of the product by improving its repairability, reusability and upgradability potential. A high score indicates how well these aspects are supported.
Covers how well the device components can be recovered and disassembled, the provided information to allow it, and how well its materials can be recycled.
Assesses the GHG emissions during the whole life cycle; the better the score here, the higher the contribution to climate protection.
Assesses the impact caused by the amount of scarce raw materials required by the device (e.g. gold for the manufacturing of electronic components) towards the resources depletion; the better the score here, the lower the impact is towards the availability of materials.
The Eco Rating methodology
The Eco Rating methodology evaluates the environmental performance of mobile phones across the entire life cycle – production, transportation, use and disposal at end of life – culminating in a final score.
Eco Rating uses information provided by manufacturers about the mobile devices they supply to mobile operators. The evaluation is made by combining 13 different environmental indicators and 6 different material efficiency criteria to obtain just one single score for each device.
These indicators include raw material extraction, device manufacturing, logistics, consumer use and disposal at end of life, in addition to usability, durability, repairability and recyclability.
The Eco Rating methodology builds on industry knowledge and best practice gathered through previous environmental labelling initiatives.
It has been developed with technical support and supervision from IHOBE (a publicly-owned agency specialized in Economic Development, Sustainability and the Environment), with the participation of device suppliers, using the latest standards and guidelines from the European Union, ITU-T, ETSI and ISO with new parameters introduced where appropriate.
Mobile phone lifecycle – five stages:
The raw materials used in the production of mobile phones and their components. Typical examples are the gold needed for connectors, lithium used for the battery, minerals needed for the cover, silicon for the integrated circuit and the rare materials needed for the display. The more that devices use recycled materials, not scarce natural resources, the higher the Eco Rating score for this stage.
When the components of the mobile phone are produced and assembled to become the finished product, including packaging (plastic) and accessories (charger, cable). The main produced components of a mobile phone are the electronic circuit board, battery, display, touch-panel, antenna, camera(s) and cover. The Eco Rating will verify the impact of this stage for carbon emissions, energy consumption and other environmental categories.
Once the device is assembled, the finished product is shipped from the manufacturing location to the country of sale. This stage considers the distance, plus the transportation method (ship or plane) and its carbon footprint.
Usage and Spare parts
Once consumers have purchased the device, they will own and use it for several years. The useful life of the device depends on factors including durability, upgradability and repairability, in addition to the energy consumption of the device from charging.
End of life
This last stage looks at the environmental impact of disposing of the device, including an assessment of how easy it is to be refurbished or if its metals and the plastics can be easily recycled.
For more details on the Eco Rating methodology, please click here
Who is behind the Eco Rating initiative?
Participation in Eco Rating is open to all operators, and the initiative will motivate and inspire the whole mobile industry to accelerate its transition towards a more sustainable and circular economy for mobile phones.
The development of that pan industry Eco Rating labelling scheme was driven by a consortium of five European mobile operators (Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefónica (operating under the O2 and Movistar brands), Telia Company and Vodafone) and the launch took place in May 2021
Participating mobile suppliers:
Who is behind the Eco Rating initiative?
Five of Europe’s leading mobile operators have joined forces to develop and launch the new pan-industry Eco Rating labelling scheme - Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefónica (operating under the O2 and Movistar brands), Telia Company and Vodafone. The consortium is open to other mobile operators and expect more to join.
More than 16 phone manufacturers have contributed to Eco Rating by providing data for their devices, with others expected to be announced in the future.
Why are you doing this?
The Eco Rating initiative has three main goals:
- To address the increasing consumer demand for environmental information about mobile phone devices
- To raise awareness and transparency by creating a consistent way for consumers to identify and compare the most sustainable mobile phones
- To encourage and incentivise suppliers to reduce the environmental impact of their devices.
Why aren’t all telecoms operators and mobile suppliers involved in the initial launch?
The Eco Rating assessment applies to new devices as they are onboarded by the participating mobile operators. As new smartphones or feature phones are released, the mobile operators will assess those devices. There will be existing devices available at retail which will not have been assessed, but the consortium anticipates that eventually all devices available to consumers will have an Eco Rating.
The consortium is encouraging other mobile operators to join the Eco Rating initiative and will make the methodology available to them.
Which mobile phone models have been rated so far?
By end of 2021 about 180 devices have been rated , and the total number of assessed devices by Eco Rating is continuously increasing in order to keep the pace of new portfolio entrants so that the current growing demand from consumers for more transparency continues to be met. The rated devices can be found on the websites and shops of the participating mobile operators.
What are our plans going forward?
The consortium aims to keep the current portfolio rated as new portfolio entrants get regularly assessed and increase the consumer visibility of Eco Rating across the point of sales. By the end of 2021 Eco Rating had been launched in more than 26 countries and its geographical footprint is expected to grow in the upcoming years. More than 15 leading mobile suppliers are already onboard, and the increased transparency brought by Eco Rating heightens the ambition of manufacturers to find better approaches to reduce their devices’ environmental footprint. This has already intensified the dialogue between manufacturers and the consortium to foster eco-design and increase the contribution of this industry to global environmental protection targets.
How do I interpret the scoring? Does a higher score mean that the ecological performance is better?
Each mobile phone handset is given an overall Eco Rating score out of a maximum of 100 to signal the environmental performance of the device across its entire life cycle. Eco Rating also highlights five key aspects of mobile device environmental sustainability, providing additional information about durability, repairability, recyclability, climate efficiency and resource efficiency.
The higher the score, the better the environmental sustainability performance of the device.
What is a good score? Is a score of 100 achievable?
The methodology has been established so that the highest possible score - 100 out of 100 - is very challenging for manufacturers to achieve.
There are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ scores – but by applying the Eco Rating methodology consistently and bringing it to market, it will help consumers identify and compare the most sustainable mobile phones and, over time, encourage suppliers to reduce the environmental impact of their devices.
How confident are you in the Eco Rating methodology?
Eco Rating has been developed jointly by five of Europe’s leading mobile operators in close co-operation by 3rd parties that have their profession in Sustainability and Life-Cycle-Analysis. The development was executed by recognized international standards. Prior to launch, the independent 3rd party conducted a detailed analysis of in-market devices for more than 12 brands, and all manufacturers were given the opportunity to review the process and submit feedback.
The methodology is periodically revised in order to better assess upcoming new technologies against environmental best practices, as well as ensuring it adapts to any relevant European and international regulations and/or standards, markets trends, etc.
For more information, please refer to ‘The Eco Rating Methodology’.
How do I compare a phone with an Eco Rating to one without it?
At launch, there will be existing devices on the market which do not have Eco Ratings, but the consortium aims to rate as many models as possible. For devices which are not rated, consumers will have to rely on the information provided by suppliers.
What can I do to optimise the ecological performance of my smartphone?
- Around 80% of the greenhouse gas emissions over the lifetime of a device occur during the production stage. So to reduce the carbon emissions associated with a mobile phone, keep it for as long as possible before replacing it.
- The battery inside a mobile phone is a sensitive item. Quick charging, trickle charging and exposure to excessively cold or warm temperatures will reduce its useful life.
- Do not keep the device in environments that are too hot or too humid. This will increase corrosion and can impact components, including the battery.
- Always ensure the device is kept up to date with the latest available software updates. Missed software updates can give the impression that the device is performing poorly or incorrectly – encouraging people to replace the device early.
- Check if the supplier or operator supports take back programs – it might be possible for the device to be refurbished and resold.
What does ‘durability’ mean and how is this related to sustainability or ecological performance?
One of the key reasons why consumers replace their mobile phones are defects or wear and tear, which prematurely shortens the viable lifetime of the device. The more durable the device, the less likely it is to be discarded early, reducing the greenhouse gases associated with the manufacture of a new device and reducing e-waste.
Does ‘repairability’ relate to the repair cost of the device?
During mobile phone repair, a technician will need to dismantle the device, replace the defective part and then reassemble it again. As a result, the labour cost is a substantial part of the overall cost of repairing a mobile phone. If the design of a mobile phone makes it easier and quicker to dismantle and reassemble, then this will reduce that element of the cost.
What does ‘recyclability’ mean? Isn’t it already a legal requirement to ensure that devices can be recycled?
Recyclability indicates how much of the material used in the manufacture of a mobile phone can be recovered at its end of its life and processed for other future uses. The ideal is to avoid having materials left over after recycling that need to be disposed of in landfills.
The relevant European law (WEEE 2012/19/EU) only mandates basic recyclability. The assessment for ‘recyclability’ exceeds the requirements in law.
What is the difference between the Eco Rating ‘repairability’ score and the French ‘repairability’ index?
Device ‘repairability’ provides consumers with an assessment of how easy it is to repair a faulty device. If devices can be repaired, they can remain in use for longer.
This aspect of Eco Rating was included independently from the legislative standard introduced by France’s ADEME agency, which has applied only in France since 2021 to a range of consumer products including smartphones, washing machines, TVs or lawnmowers.
Both the French index and the Eco Rating ‘repairability’ rely on the same underlying standards. There are some differences - the French index relates to documentation (guidelines for self-repair, for instance) or how long spare parts will remain available – while Eco Rating also considers software support and the availability of major spare parts such as displays or batteries.
What is difference between Eco Rating and the environmental evaluation system EPEAT?
EPEAT is an environmental evaluation system that ranks different kind of electronic devices based on their environmental attributes. The system has a scoring system in which gold, silver or bronze rating can be achieved, depending on device performance in different categories. The consortium believes that both systems are complementary.
For mobile phones, four suppliers are participating. Under EPEAT, the life cycle assessment (LCA) of the product only represents 7.5% of the overall score, while under Eco Rating it is 100%. The EPEAT system asks if the supplier has conducted an LCA and if this LCA has undergone third-party verification or was made publicly available.
EPEAT is not asking suppliers for the raw data for their LCA, and is also not considering the result obtained in the LCA. Under Eco Rating, a simplified LCA is performed and the results are correlated to 13 environmental impact categories.
Is there a dependency between the overall score out of 100, and the five sub-scores - durability, repairability, recyclability, climate efficiency and resource efficiency?
The overall Eco Rating score (1-100) is based on the evaluation of the environmental impact of the entire life cycle of the analysed device and its material efficiency scores. In addition, some additional sub-scores are also shown, providing more detailed guidance on the performance for specific key aspects.
The Rating Eco Rating applies a consistent evaluation methodology equally and objectively across 13 different environmental impacts and 6 circular economy criteria. The final score includes assessments that are not reflected in the sub-scores.
Devices that achieve higher sub-scores will usually achieve a higher overall Eco Rating, but the overall score is not directly dependent on the sub-scores and isn’t calculated as an average of the sub-scores. However, all the sub-scores have a relative impact on the overall result, depending on their relevance towards the life cycle of the specific device being assessed.
How are the different life-cycle aspects weighted to calculate the overall score?
To obtain the overall Eco Rating score, all the aspects within the life cycle of the device are evaluated across 13 different environmental impacts. These include climate change, resource use, land use, water scarcity, photochemical ozone formation, eutrophication, acidification, and ozone depletion
The results from these 13 individual evaluations are then weighted to obtain a single score, showing the overall environmental performance of the device.
The weighting uses factors recommended by the European Commission in the EF Method, which is publicly available and already used by the Product Environmental Footprint Initiative.
Can the methodology and Eco Rating score be used for all types of mobile device?
The Eco Rating and the methodology is developed for smartphones and feature phones. Other product types like tablets, wearables/smart watches, C-IoT products, routers and laptops are out of scope for the time being.
What is the real environmental benefit in terms of carbon reduction if a device scores 10 points higher than another device?
The Eco rating methodology considers the full life cycle of the device, taking into account more than 10 different environmental impact categories, combined into one single score.
It isn’t possible to directly correlate the CO2 emission benefits of a device that scores 10 points higher, as the score not only considers the carbon impact but accounts for a range of environmental factors.
Since the climate impact is an important element, Eco Rating includes the subcategory “Climate efficiency”.
As a rough rule of thumb, a device with a 10% longer bar for “climate efficiency” saves the equivalent of around 10Kg of CO2. This is a simplistic view, however, and includes the CO2 emissions generated during manufacturing (mainly driven by Integrated circuit and printed circuit boards), transport (e.g. from Asia or US to Europe) and the electricity consumed by regularly charging the battery for the equivalent of four years.
Why do you not assess corporate sustainability aspects like renewable energy, human rights or working conditions?
The key purpose of Eco Rating was to evaluate the environmental impact of the devices and not the company. There are already established methods to assess sustainability performance on a corporate level. However, the industry was missing a common solution to score the ecological performance of specific devices transparently, and it was our ambition to fill that gap.
Would a device that is protected with an external accessory (like protection foil) or a device that is refurbished (and sold again) get a better score?
Devices that are protected for scratches or drops by “protection accessories” would positively impact the lifespan of a device. Also, devices that are refurbished (e.g. exchange of the display, camera or battery) and enter the supply chain again have a positive impact of the environment. As the Eco Rating methodology is designed for the original/new devices brought into the markets, these aspects (accessories and refurbishment) would add complex dependencies to the methodology and make the comparability of the original devices difficult and are not in scope of our current approach.
Why do you not show the energy consumption of the devices as a dedicated sub-score?
The five sub-categories that are shown on the label have the biggest impact on the environment. Energy consumption during daily use is not among them. A smartphone consumes about 3-8 kWh per year depending on many factors such as talk time, browsing time, antenna performance, network (2G, 3G, 4G, 5G) and Apps that are not in idle stage when not used. Relative to large consumer goods (like washing machines, TVs, oven, air conditioner, water boiler, etc) a mobile device has a hundred times lower energy consumption. In the overall score the energy consumption is included. Because it just contributes to less than 5-8% of the overall environmental impact, it was decided to not show this as a dedicated sub-category as it could result in a misleading information for the customer.
Is Eco Rating available to all telcom operators worldwide?
Yes, Eco Rating is open to all mobile operators that would like to join this initiative. This geographical expansion will help to improve transparency and raise awareness of the environmental impact of the smartphones that are supplied, and the customers choose. The consortium is thus encouraging other mobile operators to join the Eco Rating initiative and is happy to make the methodology available to them.