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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Strategic CSR - e-waste

The CSR community often applies screens to filter for CSR behavior at the level of the industry. In other words, tobacco is a bad industry, along with alcohol and weapons. In reality, however, there is considerable variance within industries, but data that allows like-for-like comparison is hard to get. The article in the url below provides some insight in this respect by looking at how e-waste (Chapter 8, Case study: e-waste, p544) is being handled in the cellphone industry. To be sure, no company is excelling and the industry as a whole has much work to do:
“All the major carriers say they are working hard to get consumers to bring mobile devices back into stores for reuse or recycling. But the hard numbers – overall – remain low. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that only 11% of smartphones and tablets are being recycled. Electronic waste has become a major environmental issue, with mercury and other heavy metals from devices crowding landfills across the US.”
Nevertheless, the results generated by the article’s comparison among the performance of the industry’s biggest players are surprising:
“When it comes to e-waste, though, not all US carriers are equal. I asked the top US carriers – Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile – how many phones they recycled in 2012 so I could compare those figures with the number of phones sold in the same year. Among the major carriers, Sprint is way ahead of the pack. Its recycled or reused smartphones equate to 44% of its sales in 2012, compared to only 11.5% for AT&T. For Verizon, which divulged numbers incorporating all devices instead of just smartphones, its recycling and reuse rate came to 28%. T-Mobile doesn't list its figures and didn't respond to the Guardian's request for a similar percentage.”
The article is not clear about what is driving the differences (trade-in rates do not explain it, for example). What is clear, however, is that Sprint is doing something right on an issue that is becoming increasingly important for this industry:
“Since 2001, Sprint has diverted more than 53m mobile devices from landfills and it offers up to $300 in-store credit for old devices, including those from other carriers. In 2012, Sprint paid out $100 million in-store credit to customers.”
What is also clear, is that this makes a lot of business sense to Sprint:
“Sprint has made it clear that its buyback program isn't just about doing good; the program also has boosted the bottom line. Last year, the company avoided $1bn in costs with its phone trade-in program. Nine out of 10 used products brought into its stores get reused or remanufactured. … The company has set a goal of collecting 90% of the devices it sells by 2017.”
Take care
David Chandler & Bill Werther
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Sprint wins on e-waste: Why do AT&T and Verizon fall short?
By Jennifer Inez Ward
November 5, 2013
The Guardian