Generating a positive social and environmental impact by extending the life of smartphones and tablets

During the first lockdown in March 2020, aSmartWorld decided to help the most vulnerable and isolated people by distributing 300 refurbished phones to 120 nursing homes in Belgium, helping in total 10 000 seniors to connect with their loved ones.

This initiative was widely recognised by local media in Belgium and generated immense interest from the public and potential partners and customers. A new aSmartWorld foundation for digital inclusion is largely scalable. The start-up estimates the number of unused phones in Belgium to be around 3 million (700 million within the EU). Thanks to this model, aSmartWorld can realise its vision to do business efficiently from both economic and societal standpoints while promoting a local and circular concept.

Promoting responsible and circular use of smartphones and devices

aSmartWorld is integrating the whole value chain of refurbished smartphones locally by collecting, refurbishing and recirculating smartphones locally. Its social and environmental missions are placed at the centre of its innovative business model. aSmartWorld is positively impacting the environment, actively reducing the digital divide and creating jobs locally.

The positive impacts on the environment and society have always been in the DNA of aSmartWorld. Extending the lifetime of devices produce positive environmental impact when treated locally, and sustainably. For instance, the environmental impact of 300 smartphones given a second life is the equivalent of 9 tons of CO2 avoided, equivalent to 32400 km by car. Within the two months of the first lockdown, and with the support of companies such as Sodexo or BNP Paribas Asset Management and other organisations (Oxfam, the Belgian Red Cross) and EIT RawMaterials, the Belgian start-up launched its new initiative.

A business model based on digital inclusion

Thanks to the success of this action and having identified the “digital reconnection” as a key lever of our modern society, aSmartWorld decided to integrate the mission of reduction of the digital divide as a pillar of its business model. To do so, the Foundation for Digital Inclusion has been created in July 2020. In collaboration with the Belgian Red Cross, a portion of each collection of devices from companies is redistributed freely to people suffering from the digital gap. On top of the donation of devices, the Red Cross is training the beneficiaries to use the devices. The foundation is a key lever to motivate companies to start collaborating with aSmartWorld as it gives them the opportunity to collaborate concretely to a tangible social action locally.

Connected Smiles initiative repairing the social link during the COVID-19 crisis

aSmartWorld decided to launch a second social action during the second lockdown in Belgium. Connected Smiles started in November 2020 and will continue for the next 18 months. The aim is to distribute about 10000 devices through the Red Cross and Solidaris in Belgium. On top of helping to reduce the digital divide, it will also increase the number of devices being recirculated and increase the positive environmental impact. Various associations in Belgium are financing this action.

Moreover, several companies have already shown interest in participating in social actions aiming at closing the digital gap in Belgium. Long term contracts for the collection of their smartphones and tablets have been already signed with few of them.

By donating your device, you can recreate the social link that these people lack.

Geoffroy Van Humbeeck, CEO of aSmartWorld

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Circular and social initiative creating new jobs in Belgium

On top of acting in favour of digital inclusion by redistributing devices, aSmartWorld is also generating local employment. The potential job creation within Europe is massive. Under certain assumptions, 29,000 to 43,600 jobs could be created (Centre for European Policy Studies – Identifying the circular economy’s impact on the Fast-Moving Consumer Goods Industry: opportunities and challenges for businesses, workers and consumers – mobile phones as an example – 2019).

On top of the financial support through RM Booster in 2019 and 2020, as well as the Booster Call in response to the COVID-19 crisis, aSmartWorld team is benefiting from the mentoring from EIT RawMaterials. Becoming a member of the EIT RawMaterials Community gave an excellent opportunity to be introduced to various partners such as VITO, Umicore and Circular Wallonia.

In addition, aSmartWorld was nominated and became a finalist at the “CSR Pioneer of the Year 2019” in Belgium, and received a nomination for the “CSR Professional of the Year 2020” in Belgium.

With the COVID-19 pandemic and the first lockdown, we needed to adapt our activity, and we wanted to have a direct positive impact on the local community. The Booster Call in response to the COVID-19 crisis allowed us to strengthen the team and accelerate our development to reach 12 people. We were only two by the end of 2019.

Geoffroy Van Humbeeck, CEO of aSmartWorld

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