Apple leads the smartphone market in the overall approach towards sustainability, followed by Samsung, across the three major stages of the smartphone circular economy -- production, usage and end of life, a report mentioned on Tuesday. However, a lot has to be done when it comes to the used stock or mobile e-waste.
While Apple scores high on overall longevity, updates, and innovations toward sustainability, Samsung scores higher in repair, energy efficiency and after-sales networks, according to Counterpoint Research.
Production of a smartphone is responsible for about 80 per cent of the total carbon footprint in its life cycle, and hence it is the most vital of the stages.
Top brands like Samsung, Apple, and OPPO have started propagating environmental benefits through their initiatives in production, the report mentioned.
"Due to sustainability efforts, OEMs have to maintain a balance between enticing the consumer and saving the environment. Chinese leaders like OPPO, Xiaomi, and vivo are consistently trying to improve battery life and energy efficiency," said Glen Cardoza, senior research analyst.
However, OEMs have a lot to do when it comes to reclaiming their smartphones once their useable life comes to an end.
"Getting pre-owned smartphones back into the system is necessary to handle them sustainably. They need to be repaired/refurbished for reuse or recycled responsibly to complete the circular loop. The main objective here is to reduce e-waste. It is vital to know how much OEMs are doing for this cause," Cardoza added.
In 2021, the global refurbished market grew 15 per cent (on-year) and shows promise to grow further in the coming years.
"Carriers and retail refurbishment players are growing but OEM initiatives on reclamation, refurbishment, and e-waste reduction are quite limited. Even the best brands are not active enough in pulling back their used stock," the report mentioned.
The highest potential now rests with initiatives like trade-ins, which ensure a buyback of the older devices.
"Brands like OPPO, vivo and Xiaomi have a long way to go with reclaiming and refurbishing devices if we consider the volume of new smartphones shipped by them every year. Apple and Samsung lead here as well but most of the reclaiming and refurbishing is done by the other players in the secondary ecosystem," the report said.