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Bas van Abel, Fairphone:

“Naivety is a great catalyst for discovery”

You founded a sustainable mobile phone company, Fairphone. What was your own very first mobile phone? I’d never owned one before the Fairphone 1. In fact, my initial phone didn’t even have a SIM card; I just carried it around to show to interviewers. I hadn’t really been keen on mobile phones before then. The idea of always being reachable seemed pretty terrifying, and I remained unreachable by phone for a good two years after launching Fairphone.

What does sustainability mean to you? I’d do better by first saying what it doesn’t mean to me, which is neither religion nor dogma. I see it as a practice of weighing our individual needs against the wider consequences of satisfying these needs. It means being prepared to face the dilemma posed by the conflict between your interests and everyone else’s. So there’s a lot more to it than simply being able to say, “We make LED bulbs.”

How would you describe your childhood? In grew up in Nijmegen, in a new-build development, and as part of a family that consisted of me, my younger brother, my dad, a GP, and my mum, a Spanish teacher. Both my parents are called Jos, funnily enough, and they’ve been together since they were teenagers. I, too, have been with my partner Maike, since I was fifteen.

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