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Sprint's Approach to More Sustainable Devices


Our journey toward more sustainable devices began with its first materiality assessment in 2007. That led to the creation of our first "green" phone, Samsung Reclaim, launched in early 2009, and ultimately toward a holistic approach to sustainable product development that has accelerated the sustainability of wireless devices globally.

Sprint's approach to developing more sustainable devices mirrors other aspects of our development process; we start with formal guidance for device manufacturers to follow in the design and development process and maintain momentum with a quarterly assessment process that measures how well manufacturers are performing on a shorter list of minimum requirements. Sprint created a new specification document, Sprint Environmental Requirements, and expanded our existing scorecard to include an environmental component. Today, the environmental portion of the scorecard contributes to 6 percent of a device manufacturer's "score" each quarter. With this approach, the sustainability aspects of Sprint's devices became fully integrated as part of Sprint's overall supplier management process.

Samsung phoneSamsung Reclaim – Sprint's first phone with "green" attributes

The first step in Sprint's journey toward more sustainable devices was to gain an understanding of the environmental impact of mobile handsets and the opportunities for improvement. This was a challenging task as there were no "green" standards in place for mobile phones, and there was very little research defining what "green" meant for a wireless device. Sprint's "green" team (as it was then called) reviewed the sparse information it was able to find publicly, met with the few recognized experts it identified, conducted its own research through focus groups, and then talked with its device suppliers to see if they would be interested in working with Sprint to create a sophisticated yet more sustainable device. Samsung rose to the challenge and after a nine-month development effort, Sprint and Samsung released the Samsung Reclaim in August 2009.

Although another U.S. carrier had launched a rudimentary "eco-friendly" earlier in 2009, Samsung Reclaim was the first wireless device with sustainability attributes that offered a rich consumer-friendly feature set, and to have a casing that featured corn-based bio-plastic. The device was energy efficient, met strict thresholds for potentially hazardous materials, and came loaded with a "green" icon that offered direct access to environmentally-themed applications for our customers such as a carbon calculator and green news.

Sprint's Marketing team produced an award-winning print and Web campaign to support Samsung Reclaim and Sprint and Samsung jointly announced a $500,000 donation to the Nature Conservancy as part of its launch activities; for every Samsung Reclaim purchased, $2 went to the Nature Conservancy's Adopt an Acre program. Samsung Reclaim was well received within the mobile- device industry, winning the Consumer Electronic Show Innovation Award in 2009 and the Best of Green: Best New Cell Phone Award in the Science and Technology category by TreeHugger.com in 2010. To Sprint's delight, the device was also received well by consumers and was among the best-selling devices of 2009 and early 2010, allowing Sprint and Samsung to achieve the full $500,000 donation to the Nature Conservancy by the end of 2009. One of the eye-catching ads Sprint ran in print and online is shown above.