At Vodafone UK, we recently ran our next hackathon — an opportunity for employees to work together to build something exciting in a two days. With over 200 people taking part across 6 locations it was a truly collaborative event. Hear from Rita, a Frontend Engineer who tells us about what their team did to solve the problem of Sustainability.
26th April 2023
Empowering Consumers With Eco Ratings
This year’s hackathon at Vodafone was super exciting as it happened across the globe — in London, Newbury, Riga, Latvia, Cairo and Pune — with twenty-three teams in action over two days. It was also my first hackathon so I was eager to dig-in, work with different people across Digital and explore new parts of the codebase.
Out of the three problem statements, which also included Community and Customer Experience, our team came together around Sustainability. During our brain-storming sessions, we looked at Vodafone’s purpose statement: to connect for a better future by enabling inclusive and sustainable digital societies. And honed in on one of the three main pillars — Planet, reducing our environmental impact and helping society decarbonise.
Initially, it was difficult to connect the dots between something we can code, and something that will reduce environmental impact. We started thinking of the digitisation of services as a main avenue of reducing carbon emissions, and went on to explore the relationship between site performance and digital footprint, before settling on another approach — empowering customers to make environmentally conscious decisions.
Our idea was to show an eco-friendliness score for phones available to purchase as part of our pay monthly offer. An eco rating per phone, indicated with green leaf icons, and a filter & sort functionality based on this rating would enable our customers to make environmentally informed purchases.
We settled on this idea after discovering a brilliant initiative that Vodafone already supports: ecoratingdevices.com. Eco Ratings is a pan-industry labelling scheme, driven by five European mobile operators and including over twenty mobile suppliers. The scheme has rated around a hundred of the most common mobile handsets based on “the environmental impact of the entire process of production, transportation, use and disposal”.
Each device has a an Eco Rating (ex. for Samsung Galaxy S22, it’s 75 / 100) as well as separate scores for Durability (66 / 100), Repairability (65 / 100), Recyclability (77 / 100), Climate Efficiency (66 / 100) and Resource Efficiency (78 / 100). So many factors contribute to these calculations, from battery life to guarantee period or the scarce raw materials required in production.
We realised this valuable data was already available and all we had to do was unlock its impact by implementing it in existing customer journeys. Enabling consumers to pick phones based on their ecological friendliness would put the power of reducing environmental impact directly in their hands. A simple, yet powerful solution that could scale effortlessly.
A survey by Deloitte reveals that whilst consumers are “increasingly making conscious decisions with the environment in mind”, 48% say they don’t have enough information — we thought we could be the bridge.
To put our idea into action, our team combined many expertise — back-end developers built a microservice in Java and SpringBoot, front-end developers spun-up a React aplication and UX desginers worked on communicating the value of our solution to the wider Vodafone community. Luckily, the lead developer of SourceWeb — an internal Vodafone library that allows us to reuse components across markets — was also on our team and helped us seamlessly integrate eco ratings onto our existing product pages.
Our solution worked in three parts:
- An intermediary API that will aggregate our product data with the data from ecoratingsdevices.com. For this we made calls to our existing API that serves device data, and accessed the CSV file from Eco Ratings
- Leaf icons on the product cards displaying the eco rating of the device. For this we added a new component to SourceWeb
- Filtering functionality on the phone grid page to filter devices by eco rating. For this we used an existing SourceWeb component
Of course, as we were implementing our solution we also had to overcome some technical challenges.
On the back-end, we had to develop strategies for aggregating the two sets of data in a way that would make sense to the customer. For example, the Vodafone website initially shows a single product card for different storage capacities of the same phone model, whilst the Eco Ratings data scores each separately. To resolve this, we chose to show an average score for all versions of the same phone.
On the front end, we had to implement a filtering functionality for the products page before we could enable filtering for eco ratings. The logic for this proved complicated and we had to modify the source code of the component to make it work for our needs. Even though it meant we were coding until the last moments, we really wanted to overcome this challenge because multiple filters would enable customers to compare and contrast other factors against the eco rating to make personalised choices– to find a phone that is within my budget, the colour I like, and eco friendly.
What were some of our key learnings? It was great to produce a fully-functional end-to-end solution for Sustainability in just two days. This taught us that simplicity can be powerful — our feature was a small addition, targeted in just the right way to empower users and have a positive environmental impact.
Some ideas we’d like to pursue further when implementing our solution are:
- Make increased use of the data granularity on the phone product page. This would include the sub-categories like Recyclcability and Durability, and show changing scores as the user modifies their selection of phone attributes.
- Add on-hover information to show users where the scores come from, expose the Eco Rating methodology and promote the initiative.
- Expand eco ratings to other devices that Vodafone offer, such as tablets and smart watches.
Empowering customers to pursue eco-friendly purchasing habits can have ripple effects and encourage further change in the mobile industry — we hope to take our idea to production and contribute to building a more sustainable future.