What does practical circular economy action look like? In the lead up to the launch of Planet Ark’s Australian Circular Economy Hub (ACE Hub), we are sharing inspiring stories from the individuals, businesses and community groups that are implementing circular economy principles in Australia.
This is a sneak peak of a case study that will be featured on the ACE Hub website when it launches on November 24 — follow our ACE Hub communications to read the full story and to stay up to date with other developments of the Hub.
Light bulbs have undergone a number of transformations since the original ‘light bulb moment’ of 1847. In recent years, the technological innovations of LED (light emitting diode) and intelligent lighting have helped slash energy bills and carbon footprints of houses, streets and cities across the globe.
Lighting company Signify, formerly Philips lighting, is a world-leader in sustainable lighting innovation. Signify is 100 per cent carbon neutral, uses 100 per cent renewable electricity across its operations, recycles up to 90 per cent of its manufacturing waste and generates 82.5 per cent of its revenue from sustainable products.
We sat down with Signify’s Senior Director of Sustainability, Anton Brummelhuis, to chat about the company’s impressive environmental credentials and their circular economy journey.
Anton Brummelhuis heads up Signify’s sustainable innovation program in the Netherlands. He has been with the company for 33 years, starting in factory operations before moving onto lighting innovation. Now, he coordinates circular economy activities across the company.
“What I like about the combination of circular, which means closing the materials loop, and economy, which means to then do that in an economic viable way …. [is] the most economic value is not only in the outer loop — the recycling loop — but to work much more also on [inner loops] service concepts and business models and how you can preserve value into the system,” Anton says.
At the beginning of their circularity journey, Signify chose to focus on two ‘proof points’ to prove that the circular model worked: circular design and product as a service. “I think that one of the most influential enablers is design. So we have put quite an emphasis on optimising our design rules using circular thinking,” Anton says. “We’ve changed the milestones/deliverables during product development in such a way and that [products] needed to tick some boxes with respect to circularity,” he continues. “One of them is, for instance, that our luminaires needs to become modular.”
Most LED lights are designed to be ‘sealed for life’, meaning they cannot be disassembled. Redesigning these products to be modular was a major design challenge for Signify. The company partnered with engineers to develop modular designs.
Signify then combined this modular design with a product as a service model through it’s ‘Lighting as a Service’ program. This means that the company is able to maintain lighting units over time by swapping out broken parts of lights rather than replacing them entirely.
Results and benefits:
So far, Signify’s pilot programs have delivered significant social, environmental and economic benefits for the company. Modular design and service models produce less waste, preserve value and can be locally tailored to meet the needs of customers and communities. “One of the social benefits was that a circular economy brings more local-for-local opportunities,” Anton says. “If you move from selling box sets to circular lighting and the light as a service concept, then at a certain point you also need local labour and to do those services.”
Another example is Signify’s 3D printing service, which prints lights on demand locally. In addition to providing employment opportunities in the community, these services reduce the footprint of Signify’s products by reducing the distance they need to travel to reach consumers. These initiatives make economic sense and generate customer interest. This is the triple-bottom line at work.
On top of all those benefits, circular approaches are also forward-looking. “Our solutions we bring to the market are much more future proof,” Anton says.
The ACE Hub officially launches on November 24 with an online event that will be live broadcast from the Sydney Opera House. Join us for a morning of talks from some of the brightest minds in the Australian and international Circular Economy space. Head here for more information and to secure your ticket.