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GLOBAL – We have been writing a lot about all the actions Nokia takes related to the environment. Part of it is our interest in all the amazing things Nokia does and the awards it gets. But it’s also a fascination with just how prevalent care for the environment is at Nokia.

An article we wrote last month, exploring the question of phone buy-back schemes, was called into question by some of my colleagues, setting me off on an exploration of buy-back schemes, e-waste, and a deeper discovery of how far care for the environment goes at Nokia.

Join me, after the jump, in the first part of this discovery: Nokia and the environment.

The one at the center
We all know that eco-savviness is all the rage now among corporations. Everyone is trying to burnish their image with any sort of action that can be perceived as environmentally respectful.

Nokia, known for its modesty, has been quietly taking environmentally conscious actions for a long time. Indeed, Kirsi Sormunen, VP of Environmental Affairs, has been at the center of all these efforts for many years, long before it was fashionable.

The basic principles of environmentalism have been at the core of Nokia’s actions for many years, fully integrated into the business strategy. Kirsi’s network spreads out everywhere across the company, with “agents” embedded in business units and functions. She says that it is everyone’s responsibility, from workplace resources to purchasing to those who build our services.

The work Nokia does is not driven by legislative requirements or even concentrated in one region. It’s a total, global, product life-cycle approach, with environmental considerations integrated into everything that is done.

Regularly, Nokia voluntarily phases out many materials and does this across all of its products. Like in the Nokia 5630 XpressMusic, which is completely free of PVC, phthalates, chlorinated flame retardants, and all compounds containing bromine or antimony trioxide. Such efforts pave the way for the rest of the product portfolio.

Recently, we wrote about how Nokia was part of an industry-wide effort to standardize chargers across all phone manufacturers. It started with an ambition, led to long discussions, then everyone reached a consensus that was then acted upon.

Beyond the borders
Nokia also has strict supplier requirements on the materials used to make Nokia products. It needs to make sure that suppliers are in line with corporate ethics and environmental actions.

One example is the controversial use of tantalum in capacitors in mobile phones. One place where tantalum is sourced from is the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where there are concerns about illegal mining. Nokia requires all suppliers to provide documentation that the tantalum is not sourced from the DRC.

So, the efforts Nokia makes to improve overall environmental impact extends down the supply chain. Indeed, Nokia has one of the most extensive materials documentation process in the industry, so we know what goes into our products, and therefore we know what we release into the environment. Some companies, such as the Phone-Coop, in the UK, only sell Nokia phones because of this strict requirement for Nokia suppliers.

Nokia does not do all this to win awards or get good ratings. It is clear that such actions are not only ethically sound, but also good for business. But awards are still given. And I am sure Kirsi does not mind.

In February, Nokia won the GSM Association’s CEO award for outstanding environmental contribution. Further, Nokia regularly is among the top companies in Greenpeace’s quarterly Greenpeace Guide to Greener Electronics.

And it’s something you don’t stop doing
Of course, we will be bringing more stories about environmental actions by Nokia. Our next article will be about e-waste, the topic that set us off on this deep dive into Nokia’s environmental efforts. In the mean time, feel free to let us know what you think of all these efforts, if you have participated in any, or if you have seen anything in your country.

[Celia Peterson and Susan Smith, from Nokia’s environment communications team, contributed (heavily) to this article.]