When green is not enough

Pennie Varvarides talks to lighting designer John Bullock about GreenSpec Light, a new sustainability accreditation service for lighting manufacturers

Over the past few years, people have become more aware of the need to use less energy – to protect the environment, or simply to protect the bottom line. Energy-efficient products are more popular than ever.

John Bullock says the industry has responded amazingly

Lighting designer John Bullock says the lighting industry has ‘responded amazingly successfully to the needs of the low carbon environment’, but he believes it is not enough to stop at efficient products. It’s time to take the next step.

He says: ‘The amazing effect of the internet has been to create a socially-aware class. Against all the odds, we have millions of people who appear to care. This leads us to the prospect of a new business paradigm.

‘Businesses that take their responsibilities more seriously and do something about their dodgier practices.’

As the industry charges ahead, taking advantage of new technologies that improve efficiency, Bullock says it’s becoming harder for manufacturers to stand out form the crowd.

‘We reviewed what the market is looking for and realised that the burgeoning market is not in low energy product – that is now a given.

‘What the public face of the construction sector is looking for is sustainable credibility. Businesses with public faces, like Tesco or Apple for example, are being stung when the public finds out about their shortcomings. And thus the world of corporate social responsibility is born.’

He says corporate social responsibility is about more than just green behaviour in a company. Bullock has a six-point list of what this encapsulates (see box).

Companies must take responsibility for the way the business is run – how employees are treated, what resources are used, interaction with the local community.

Thorn, part of the Zumtobel Group, is forging ahead on sustainability

The likes of Philips and Zumtobel are already charging ahead in this area, publishing sustainability documentation on their websites.

Under ‘reporting standards’, Philips says: ‘We have followed relevant best practice standards and international guidelines while compiling the sustainability performance covered in this report.

‘We signed on to the United Nations Global Compact in March 2007, joining thousands of companies from all regions of the world as well as international labour and civil society organisations to advance 10 universal principles in the areas of human rights, labour, the environment and anti-corruption.’

As the idea of corporate social responsibility spreads, Bullock and his partners, Sandy Patience and Brian Murphy, set up GreenSpec Light to offer businesses encouragement and help them improve their practices – it is a sustainability accreditation service for lighting companies.

GS-L works with companies that are interested in sustainability beyond low energy products. Companies become members, and GS-L creates a six-month plan that is reworked every six months to ensure improvements are being made continuously.

Road map

In the plan, which Bullock calls a ‘road map to sustainability’, GS-L works with the member company to find out which areas can be improved and how best to go about it.

A checklist is created, with reference to his six-point list, and the member starts taking action. GS-L acts as a consultant, helping members decide how to fix things, but also as an accreditation service by naming each member as a business that takes social responsibility seriously.

Bullock believes that the savings member companies make will more than make up for the cost of membership.

The core principles of GS-L are taken from ISO 26000, Guidance on Social Responsibility, which, as the name suggests, offers guidance on social responsibility – but only guidance.

Bullock adds: ‘We’re working with smaller companies because we feel it’s these guys who can make big differences very quickly to their company activity. But I’m happy to talk to anyone of any size.’

Six steps to sustainability

GreenSpec Light six-point sustainability list:

  • Human right
  • Labour practices
  • Environment
  • Consumer issues
  • Fair practice
  • Community involvement

Businesses that sign up to the GS-L plan are given a badge of honour on day one. The badge says the member company actively tries to improve its performance in all of the areas in the list above. With the help of GS-L, companies are guided towards a more sustainable future.

Businesses work with GS-L to come up with a ‘road map’ of what they need to do, outlining areas that must be tackled.

If at the end of the first term a company has failed to meet, or at least show progress towards, the predetermined goals, its badge will be revoked and it will be removed from the GS-L website.

Reuse – the second R

Why do companies recycle lamps and luminaires when they could reuse them? Pennie Varvarides takes a look at equipment reuse, the second R in the mantra ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’ – and arguable the most important to sustainability