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September 24, 2018
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sustainability

Enveritas’ technology lets small growers tap into the market for sustainable coffee

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Demand for sustainable coffee is growing, a boon for socially conscious coffee lovers — but many small growers are missing out because they lack the ability to verify that their coffee beans are grown using fair labor and eco-friendly practices. In fact, verification is often accessible only to large coffee estates or cooperatives. Enveritas wants to change that. The nonprofit, which recently completed Y Combinator’s accelerator program, uses geospatial analysis to make the process more efficient, enabling it to offer free verification to small farms.

Enveritas’ goal is to end poverty in the coffee sector by 2030. Before founding Enveritas in 2016, CEO David Browning and head of operations Carl Cervone worked at TechnoServe, a nonprofit that serves businesses in developing economies. Browning led TechnoServe’s global coffee practice, while Cervone advised coffee growers in Africa, Asia and Latin America about sustainability trends.

Browning tells TechCrunch that TechnoServe’s coffee team spent a lot of time working with small farmers, many of whom don’t have access to sustainability verification because their farms are too remote or small. The typical coffee grower served by Enveritas has less than two hectares of land, lives on less than $2 a day and relies on cash crops for their family’s income.

“The existing solutions work well for large estates and it can also be effective for farmers organized into cooperatives, but many of the world’s coffee farmers are smaller farmers and not organized into estates,” Browning explains. “For those farmers, the existing solutions can be more difficult to access.”

Part of the reason is because many verification solutions rely on field workers who visit farms and track sustainability standards using pen and paper, a time-consuming and costly process.

To develop a more efficient and scalable system, Enveritas uses geospatial and machine learning to identify coffee farms through satellite imagery and monitor for issues like deforestation. Though it still relies on local partners to visit farms and confirm that sustainability standards are being followed, its technology enables Enveritas to provide verification services for free.

Enveritas checks for 30 standards, which it divides into three categories: social, environmental and economic. “Social” includes no child labor and workers’ rights; “environmental” checks for problems like deforestation, pollution or banned pesticides; and “economic” covers fair wages, ethical business practices and transparent pricing, among other standards.

The organization currently operates in 10 countries, including Uganda, Indonesia, Ethiopia, Nicaragua and Costa Rica, with plans to expand into more markets.

Sustainable coffee isn’t just in demand by caffeine lovers with a penchant for social justice. Many of the world’s biggest coffee companies, including Illy and Starbucks, have launched sustainability initiatives as part of their corporate responsibility measures. Offering coffee grown using fair labor or environmentally friendly practices also helps differentiate their products in a crowded marketplace. Research by the National Coffee Association, an American trade group, recently found that many millennials prefer sustainable coffee, with up to two-thirds of 19 to 24-year-olds surveyed said they pick their coffee based on whether it was grown using environmentally friendly practices and fair labor.

While coffee is currently its main focus, Browning says Enveritas’ system can be applied to other agricultural products that need more visibility in their supply chains. For example, it also can be used to verify the sustainability of cocoa, cotton and palm oil.

As a nonprofit, Enveritas faces different funding challenges from other tech startups. Browning says it is currently at the equivalent of being ready for a Series A. Much of its backing comes from coffee companies (Enveritas can’t disclose which ones) that hope to benefit from Enveritas’ solutions.

“One of the advantages of this system is that it reduces the cost for coffee companies relative to the traditional pen and paper system, but it’s also simultaneously free for farmers,” Browning says. “That’s one of the most compelling innovations, so it’s a win-win for both.”

News Source = techcrunch.com

Open source sustainability

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Open source sustainability has been nothing short of an oxymoron. Engineers around the world pour their sweat and frankly, their hearts into these passion projects that undergird all software in the modern internet economy. In exchange, they ask for nothing in return except for recognition and help in keeping their projects alive and improving them. It’s an incredible movement of decentralized voluntarism and represents humanity at its best.

The internet and computing giants — the heaviest users of open source in the world — are collectively worth trillions of dollars, but you would be remiss in thinking that their wealth has somehow trickled down to the maintainers of the open source projects that power them. Working day jobs, maintainers today can struggle to find the time to fix critical bugs, all the while facing incessant demands from users requesting free support on GitHub. Maintainer burnout is a monstrous challenge.

That distressing situation was chronicled almost exactly two years ago by Nadia Eghbal, in a landmark report on the state of open source published by the Ford Foundation. Comparing open source infrastructure to “roads and bridges,” Eghbal provided not just a comprehensive overview of the challenges facing open source, but also a call-to-arms for more users of open source to care about its economics, and ultimately, how these critical projects can sustain themselves indefinitely.

Two years later, a new crop of entrepreneurs, open source maintainers, and organizations have taken Eghbal up on that challenge, developing solutions that maintain the volunteer spirit at the heart of open source while inventing new economic models to make the work sustainable. All are early, and their long-term effects on the output and quality of open source are unknown. But each solution offers an avenue that could radically change the way we think of a career in open source in the future.

No one sees that the Roads and Bridges are falling down

Eghbal’s report two years ago summarized the vast issues facing open source maintainers, challenges that have remained essentially unchanged in the interim. It’s a quintessential example of the “tragedy of the commons.” As Edghbal wrote at the time, “Fundamentally, digital infrastructure has a free rider problem. Resources are offered for free, and everybody (whether individual developer or large software company) uses them, so nobody is incentivized to contribute back, figuring that somebody else will step in.” That has led to a brittle ecosystem, just as open source software reached the zenith of its influence.

The challenges, though, go deeper. It’s not just that people are free riding, it’s often that they don’t even realize it. Software engineers can easily forget just how much craftsmanship has gone into the open source code that powers the most basic of applications. NPM, the company that powers the module repository for the Node ecosystem, has nearly 700,000 projects listed on its registry. Starting a new React app recently, NPM installed 1105 libraries with my initial project in just a handful of seconds. What are all of these projects?

And more importantly, who are all the people behind them? That dependency tree of libraries abstracts all the people whose work has made those libraries available and functional in the first place. That black box can make it difficult to see that there are far fewer maintainers working behind the scenes at each of these open source projects than what one might expect, and that those maintainers may be struggling to work on those libraries due to lack of funding.

Eghbal pointed to OpenSSL as an example, a library that powers a majority of encrypted communications on the web. Following the release of the Heartbleed security bug, people were surprised to learn that the OpenSSL project was the work of a very small team of individuals, with only one of them working on it full-time (and at a very limited salary compared to industry norms).

Such a situation isn’t unusual. Open source projects often have many contributors, but only a handful of individuals are truly driving a particular project forward. Lose that singular force either to burnout or distraction, and a project can be adrift quickly.

When free isn’t free

No one wants open source to disappear, or for maintainers to burnout. Yet, there is a strong cultural force against commercial interests in the community. Money is corrupting, and dampens the voluntary spirit of open source efforts. More pragmatically, there are vast logistical challenges with managing money on globally distributed volunteer teams that can make paying for work logistically challenging.

Unsurprisingly, the vanguard of open source sustainability sees things very differently. Kyle Mitchell, a lawyer by trade and founder of License Zero, says that there is an assumption that “Open source will continue to fall from the sky like manna from heaven and that the people behind it can be abstracted away.” He concludes: “It is just really wrong.”

That view was echoed by Henry Zhu, who is the maintainer of the popular JavaScript compiler Babel. “We trust startups with millions of VC money and encourage a culture of ‘failing fast,’ yet somehow the idea of giving to volunteers who may have showed years of dedication is undesirable?” he said.

Xavier Damman, the founder and CEO of Open Collective, says that “In every community, there are always going to be extremists. I hear them and understand them, and in an ideal world, we all have universal basic income, and I would agree with them.” Yet, the world hasn’t moved to such an income model, and so supporting the work of open source has to be an option. “Not everyone has to raise money for the open source community, but the people who want to, should be able to and we want to work with them,” he said.

Mitchell believes that one of the most important challenges is just getting comfortable talking about money. “Money feels dirty until it doesn’t,” he said. “I would like to see more money responsibility in the community.” One challenge he notes is that “learning to be a great maintainer doesn’t teach you how to be a great open source contractor or consultant.” GitHub works great as a code repository service, but ultimately doesn’t teach maintainers the economics of their work.

Supporting the individual contributor: Patreon and License Zero

Perhaps the greatest debate in sustaining open source is deciding who or what to target: the individual contributors — who often move between multiple projects — or a particular library itself.

Take Feross Aboukhadijeh for example. Aboukhadijeh (who, full disclosure, was once my college roommate at Stanford almost a decade ago) has become a major force in the open source world, particularly in the Node ecosystem. He served an elected term on the board of directors of the Node.js Foundation, and has published 125 repositories on GitHub, including popular projects like WebTorrent (with 17,000 stars) and Standard (18,300 stars).

Aboukhadijeh was looking for a way to spend more time on open source, but didn’t want to be beholden to working on a single project or writing code at a private company that would never see the light of day. So he turned to Patreon as a means of support.

(Disclosure: CRV, my most immediate former employer, is the series A investor in Patreon. I have no active or passive financial interest in this specific company. As per my ethics statement, I do not write about CRV’s portfolio companies, but given that this essay focuses on open source, I made an exception).

Patreon is a crowdsourced subscription platform, perhaps best known for the creatives it hosts. These days though, it is also increasingly being used by notable open source contributors as a way to connect with fans and sustain their work. Aboukhadijeh launched his page after seeing others doing it. “A bunch of people were starting up Patreons, which was kind of a meme in my JavaScript circles,” he said. His Patreon page today has 72 contributors providing him with $2,874 in funding per month ($34,488 annually).

That may seem a bit paltry, but he explained to me that he also supplements his Patreon with funding from organizations as diverse as Brave (an adblocking browser with a utility token model) to PopChest (a decentralized video sharing platform). That nets him a couple of more thousands of dollars per month.

Aboukhadijeh said that Twitter played an outsized role in building out his revenue stream. “Twitter is the most important on where the developers talk about stuff and where conversations happen…,” he said. “The people who have been successful on Patreon in the same cohort [as me] who tweet a lot did really well.”

For those who hit it big, the revenues can be outsized. Evan You, who created the popular JavaScript frontend library Vue.js, has reached $15,206 in monthly earnings ($182,472 a year) from 231 patrons. The number of patrons has grown consistently since starting his Patreon in March 2016 according to Graphtreon, although earnings have gone up and down over time.

Aboukhadijeh noted that one major benefit was that he had ownership over his own funds. “I am glad I did a Patreon because the money is mine,” he said.

While Patreon is one direct approach for generating revenues from users, another one is to offer dual licenses, one free and one commercial. That’s the model of License Zero, which Kyle Mitchell propsosed last year. He explained to me that “License Zero is the answer to a really simple question with no simple answers: how do we make open source business models open to individuals?”

Mitchell is a rare breed: a lifelong coder who decided to go to law school. Growing up, he wanted to use software he found on the web, but “if it wasn’t free, I couldn’t download it as a kid,” he said. “That led me into some of the intellectual property issues that paved a dark road to the law.”

License Zero is a permissive license based on the two-clause BSD license, but adds terms requiring commercial users to pay for a commercial license after 90 days, allowing companies to try a project before purchasing it. If other licenses aren’t available for purchase (say, because a maintainer is no longer involved), then the language is no longer enforceable and the software is offered as fully open source. The idea is that other open source users can always use the software for free, but for-profit uses would require a payment.

Mitchell believes that this is the right approach for individuals looking to sustain their efforts in open source. “The most important thing is the time budget – a lot of open source companies or people who have an open source project get their money from services,” he said. The problem is that services are exclusive to a company, and takes time away from making a project as good as it can be. “When moneymaking time is not time spent on open source, then it competes with open source,” he said.

License Zero is certainly a cultural leap away from the notion that open source should be free in cost to all users. Mitchell notes though that “companies pay for software all the time, and they sometimes pay even when they could get it for free.” Companies care about proper licensing, and that becomes the leverage to gain revenue while still maintaining the openness and spirit of open source software. It also doesn’t force open source maintainers to take away critical functionality — say a management dashboard or scaling features — to force a sale.

Changing the license of existing projects can be challenging, so the model would probably best be used by new projects. Nonetheless, it offers a potential complement or substitute to Patreon and other subscription platforms for individual open source contributors to find sustainable ways to engage in the community full-time while still putting a roof over their heads.

Supporting the organization: Tidelift and Open Collective

Supporting individuals makes a lot of sense, but often companies want to support the specific projects and ecosystems that underpin their software. Doing so can be next to impossible. There are complicated logistics required in order for companies to fund open source, such as actually having an organization to send money to (and for many, to convince the IRS that the organization is actually a non-profit). Tidelift and Open Collective are two different ways to open up those channels.

Tidelift is the brainchild of four open-source fanatics led by Donald Fischer. Fischer, who is CEO, is a former venture investor at General Catalyst and Greylock as well as a long-time executive at Red Hat. In his most recent work, Fischer invested in companies at the heart of open source ecosystems, such as Anaconda (which focuses on scientific and statistical computing within Python), Julia Computing (focused on the Julia programming language), Ionic (a cross-platform mobile development framework), and TypeSafe now Lightbend (which is behind the Scala programming language).

Fischer and his team wanted to create a platform that would allow open source ecosystems to sustain themselves. “We felt frustrated at some level that while open source has taken over a huge portion of software, a lot of the creators of open source have not been able to capture a lot of the value they are creating,” he explained.

Tidelift is designed to offer assurances “around areas like security, licensing, and maintenance of software,” Fischer explained. The idea has its genesis in Red Hat, which commercialized Linux. The idea is that companies are willing to pay for open source when they can receive guarantees around issues like critical vulnerabilities and long-term support. In addition, Tidelift handles the mundane tasks of setting up open source for commercialization such as handling licensing issues.

Fischer sees a mutualism between companies buying Tidelift and the projects the startup works with. “We are trying to make open source better for everyone involved, and that includes both the creators and users of open source,” he said. “What we focus on is getting these issues resolved in the upstream open source project.” Companies are buying assurances, but not exclusivity, so if a vulnerability is detected for instance, it will be fixed for everyone.

Tidelift initially launched in the JavaScript ecosystem around React, Angular, and Vue.js, but will expand to more communities over time. The company has raised $15 million in venture capital from General Catalyst and Foundry Group, plus former Red Hat chairman and CEO Matthew Szulik.

Fischer hopes that the company can change the economics for open source contributors. He wants the community to move from a model of “get by and survive” with a “subsistence level of earnings” and instead, help maintainers of great software “win big and be financially rewarded for that in a significant way.”

Where Tidelift is focused on commercialization and software guarantees, Open Collective wants to open source the monetization of open source itself.

Open Collective is a non-profit platform that provides tools to “collectives” to receive money while also offering mechanisms to allow the members of those collectives to spend their money in a democratic and transparent way.

Take, for instance, the open collective sponsoring Babel. Babel today receives an annual budget of $113,061 from contributors. Even more interesting though is that anyone can view how the collective spends its money. Babel currently has $28,976.82 in its account, and every expense is listed. For instance, core maintainer Henry Zhu, who we met earlier in this essay, expensed $427.18 on June 2nd for two weeks worth of Lyft rides in SF and Seattle.

Xavier Damman, CEO and founder of Open Collective, believes that this radical transparency could reshape how the economics of open source are considered by its participants. Damman likens Open Collective to the “View Source” feature of a web browser that allows users to read a website’s code. “Our goal as a platform is to be as transparent as possible,” he said.

Damman was formerly the founder of Storify. Back then, he built an open source project designed to help journalists accept anonymous tips, which received a grant. The problem was that “I got a grant, and I didn’t know what to do with the money.” He thought of giving it to some other open source projects, but “technically, it was just impossible.” Without legal entities or paperwork, the money just wasn’t fungible.

Open Collective is designed to solve those problems. Open Collective itself is a 501(c)6 non-profit, and it technically receives all money destined for any of the collectives hosted on its platform as their fiscal sponsor. That allows the organization to send out invoices to companies, providing them with the documentation they need in order to write a check. “As long as they have an invoice, they are covered,” Damman explained.

Once a project has money, it is up to the maintainers of that community to decide how to spend it. “It is up to each community to define their own rules,” Damman said. He notes that open source contributors can often spend the money on the kind of uninteresting work that doesn’t normally get done, which Damman analogized as “pay people to keep the place clean.” No one wants to clean a public park, but if no one does it, then no one will ever use the park. He also noted that in-person meetings are a popular usage of revenues.

Open Collective was launched in late 2015, and since then has become home to 647 open source projects. So far, Webpack, the popular JavaScript build tool, has generated the most revenue, currently sitting at $317,188 a year. One major objective of the non-profit is to encourage more for-profit companies to commit dollars to open source. Open Collective places the logos of major donors on each collective page, giving them visible credit for their commitment to open source.

Damman’s ultimate dream is to change the notion of ownership itself. We can move from “Competition to collaboration, but also ownership to commons,” he envisioned.

Sustaining sustainability

It’s unfortunately very early days for open source sustainability. While Patreon, License Zero, Tidelift, and Open Collective are different approaches to providing the infrastructure for sustainability, ultimately someone has to pay to make all that infrastructure useful. There are only a handful of Patreons that could substitute for an engineer’s day job, and only two collectives by my count on Open Collective that could support even a single maintainer full time. License Zero and Tidelift are too new to know how they will perform yet.

Ultimately though, we need to change the culture toward sustainability. Henry Zhu of Babel commented, “The culture of our community should be one that gives back and supports community projects with all that they can: whether with employee time or funding. Instead of just embracing the consumption of open source and ignoring the cost, we should take responsibility for it’s sustainability.”

In some ways, we are merely back to the original free rider problem in the tragedy of the commons — someone, somewhere has to pay, but all get to share in the benefits.

The change though can happen through all of us who work on code — every software engineer and product manager. If you work at a for-profit company, take the lead in finding a way to support the code that allows you to do your job so efficiently. The decentralization and volunteer spirit of the open source community needs exactly the same kind of decentralized spirit in every financial contributor. Sustainability is each of our jobs, every day. If we all do our part, we can help to sustain one of the great intellectual movements humanity has ever created, and end the oxymoron of open source sustainability forever.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Bolt Threads joins Modern Meadow in the quest to bring lab-grown leather to market

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There’s a new world of lab-grown replacements coming for everything from the meat department in your grocery store to a department store near you.

Lab-made leather replacements will soon join vegetable-based meat replacements on store shelves thanks to startups like Bolt Threads, which today announced that it would join companies like Modern Meadow in the quest to bring vegetable-based replacements for animal hides to market.

Earlier this year, the Silicon Valley-based Bolt Threads raised a $123 million financing to expand its business beyond the manufacture of spider silk which had brought the company acclaim — and an initial slate of products.

The announcement today of its new product, Mylo, is the first step on that path.

Working with established partner, Stella McCartney, and using technology licensed from the biomaterials company Ecovative Design, Bolt is bringing Mylo’s mushroom-based leather replacement to the world in a debut of one of McCartney’s Falabella bag designs made from the mushroom material.

The first bag will be available at the Victoria and Albert Museum’s Fashioned from Nature exhibit, open to the public on April 21st in London.

In an interview with Fast Company last year, McCartney discussed her commitment to sustainability. “I don’t think you should compromise anything for sustainability,” McCartney told the magazine. “The ultimate achievement for me is when someone comes into one of my stores and buys a Falabella bag thinking it’s real leather.”

While Bolt Threads is licensing its technology from Ecovative Design, Modern Meadow is choosing to develop its own intellectual property for growing a replacement leather.

Taking a different path to its California-based competitor, Brooklyn’s Modern Meadow model is going for a mass market while Bolt Threads is more bespoke.

The East Coast company partnered with the European chemical giant Evonik — and has raised over $40 million dollars from billionaire backers like Peter Thiel’s Breakout Ventures and Horizons Ventures (financed by Li Ka Shing — one of China’s wealthiest men) — along with the Singaporean investment giant, Temasek.

Both companies are examples of how animal husbandry is being replaced by technology in the search for a more sustainable way to feed and clothe the world’s growing population. It’s a population that’s demanding quality goods without sacrificing sustainable industrial practices — all things that are made possible by new material — and data — science along with novel manufacturing capabilities that show promise in taking things from the laboratory to the heart of the animal industries they’re looking to replace.

This is a pattern that’s not just happening in fashion, but being replicated in food science as well.

How quickly the change will come — and how viable these alternatives will be — depend on them scaling to meet a broad consumer demand. One purse in a museum show isn’t enough. Once there are hundreds of handbags on Target shelves — that’s when the revolution won’t need to be televised, because it will already have been commercialized.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Corporate sustainability must give way to corporate responsibility

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Today we consume more than twice as much as our relatives did only 50 years ago. In the US, this means generating upwards of 500 billion pounds of garbage every year that’s trucked to one of our 10,000 landfills. This accelerated consumption is exhausting global ecosystems, depleting 30% of global resources and nearly 60% of animal populations since the 1970s.

Image courtesy of SaveOnEnergy.

 

These sobering numbers are fueling a consumer revolution. People are shifting their consumption habits, with leaders like Lauren Singer helping others to live a lifestyle of zero waste – two years of Lauren’s trash fits inside a single mason jar.

As efforts like these gain steam, a growing segment of conscious consumers are successfully demanding a shift in the marketplace, with 88% of millennials believing businesses have the power to create positive social change. But 70% don’t think businesses are doing enough, and they’re right.

It’s tough to find a business without some form of sustainability messaging emblazoned on their platforms or packaging. And while that’s great to some degree, according to the EPA, more than 75% of greenhouse gas emissions from many US industry sectors still originates from our supply chains. So just how authentic is all of that sustainability messaging, and how much of it is simply pandering to the modern consumer?

Sustainability isn’t just marketing, it’s a responsibility for all businesses to emulate those like Ray Anderson by evaluating their supply chains with clear eyes, making the right choices for our planet and courageously acting on those choices with urgency.

This process has never been easier from a business perspective. According to the Carbon Disclosure Project, 40% of participating members report meaningful cost reductions after teaming with suppliers to decrease their environmental impact, while more than 1/3 have unlocked new revenue streams.

When Siemens announced a radical commitment of more than $100 million to lowering their carbon emissions, former CEO Eric Spiegel used a powerful word to describe the project – calling it an investment. Siemens would invest in the latest technologies, retrofitting factories, purchasing new efficient machinery and transitioning all operations to renewable power by 2020. This investment would not only make the world a better place, but would return more than $20 million each year – paying for itself in fewer than six years.

Patagonia is perhaps the most emblematic of all north star brands I personally follow in terms of their tireless commitment to making the world a better place. They deliberately use the word responsibility when discussing the incredible work they’re doing to ensure their suppliers embody their values.

When Patagonia – led by visionary CEO Rose Marcario, who believes “we live in an interconnected world” that our actions affect “profoundly” – identifies aspects of their supply chain that aren’t aligned with their organizational values, they do their best to fix the problem instead of simply moving on to another vendor. A practice all businesses should consider as it raises standards across the globe while driving value for customers. Patagonia is poised to break the $1b annual revenue mark this year.

Levi’s is another iconic brand pushing the boundaries of environmental stewardship by sharing learnings with competitors. When Levi’s discovered a method to reduce the water used in garment finishing processes by 96%, saving over 1 billion gallons of water since 2011, the company not only open sourced their innovation but provided their entire staff with water conservation training.

Levi’s has since announced their intention to use 100% sustainable cotton and achieve zero discharge of hazardous chemicals by 2020. I’m sure the open source reports following the successful realization of those two goals will not only be fascinating reads, but will help competitors transition to more responsible practices too.

As our population continues to grow, it’s incumbent on us all to make adjustments for a more balanced future. Businesses in particular can no longer be sustainable in name only, they must rise and meet the responsibility our times demand.

Featured Image: DrAfter123/Getty Images

News Source = techcrunch.com

Fairphone takes $7.7M to push for change across the electronics value chain

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European mobile device maker Fairphone, which designs modular smartphones with the aim of supporting repairability and encouraging sustainability, has taken in new investment of €6.5 million ($7.7M). It says it’s hoping to use the financing to build wider support for a push towards a circular economy for consumer electronics.

Specifically it says it intends to use the money to scale up its proposition to try to have that wider impact. Point is, it isn’t easy building electronics with a longer than average lifespan. Consumer upgrade cycles are embedded into the entire supplier system, from hardware parts to software patches.

That’s why Fairphone had to end support for its first repairable-by-design handset this summer. Owners of the device would only have had between two and 3.5 years’ support in all, and the company took some flak for bowing out on the device given their mission is intended to support the opposite: electronics with longevity.

Co-founder Bas van Abel explained the decision as a consequence of Fairphone being unable to source hardware spare parts for the handset after suppliers shifted their business to keep up with industry cycles and retired the necessary spare parts.

Another problem is that chipset manufacturers stop releasing software updates after a while — and Fairphone said the expense and difficulty of writing the necessary updates itself was not something it could afford to take on for the first handset.

“There is very little set up by the industry for sustainable production in its current state and we are working to change that,” van Abel said at the time.

The company had used a crowdfunding route to help them build that first device. But the realization they’ve clearly come to is you can’t just be a sustainable device maker on your own; you need to inspire an entire ecosystem to work towards the same goal.

The new investment is therefore aimed at trying to scale its approach to building sustainable electronics “throughout the entire electronics value chain, including material sourcing, production, distribution and recycling”, it said. In short, creating a viable market “for fairer electronics” means bringing along suppliers, as well as spiking enough consumer demand.

The funding is coming from Pymwymic Impact Investing Cooperative, which invests in companies with an environmental or social purpose and has two decades of experience doing so; along with another social impact investor, DOEN Participaties, the investment arm of the Dutch Postcode Lottery (and also an investor in Fairphone from the beginning); plus some unnamed others.

“In line with our ambitions to raise the bar in the electronics industry, we aim to increase our leverage with electronics suppliers to negotiate a healthier, more future-proof supply chain. This touches on a variety of issues, including the availability and lifespan of electronic components, the sourcing of Fairtrade gold and improving working conditions. By bringing these principles to the table, we can inspire an entire system change,” said van Abel in a statement.

The company has also brought on a new managing director, Eva Gouwens, and touts her experience in growing a social enterprise — “both in terms of organization as well as value chain impact”.

In terms of its own community, Fairphone says it’s sold its smartphones to more than 135,000 individuals over four years.

News Source = techcrunch.com

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