Signify eco-claims slammed by European Environmental Bureau: greenwashing claims

European Environmental Bureau (EEB) has published an article on its website titled “Higher bills for millions as EU lighting firms milk old technology

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With a strapline claiming ‘wasteful lamps treated as “cash engine” by Signify, despite green claims’ the article (dated 9th July 2021) queries Signify’s claims to be an ‘environmental champion’ given that evidence from within company reports show that inefficient and environmentally damaging fluorescent lamps have remained an active ‘cash engine’ for the past five years.

Signify played a key part in the lobbying of the EU that has delayed the ban on fluorescent lamps, a delay that is estimated will cost around €16.8 million per day in lost efficiency savings over the next couple of years, according to NGO estimates. Signify lobbying activity has led to delays to regulatory bans, as the company claimed that the lighting market wasn’t ready for the wholesale transition to LED. This claim has been refuted in independent analysis of the state of lighting technology.

‘Last man standing’

Signify has actively engaged in a ‘last man standing’ approach to the lamp market and has trumpeted its success in taking that position in company reports. It has reported economic success in defining itself as a final provider of ‘conventional’ lamps, including maintaining sales of tungsten halogen lamps (2018 Annual report), increasing market share and sustaining a high level of profitability in ‘conventional’ lamps such as fluorescent tubes (2019 Annual Report); reporting further market share gains and strong free cash flow generation . . . for those ‘conventional’ products (Annual Report 2020)

This is all in stark contrast to Signify’s statement on its global website that ‘our innovations contribute to a safer, smarter, more sustainable world’. Signify is also a member of the UN Global Compact and the UN Business Ambition for 1.5C. Signify’s LED slogan is ‘Real pros say farewell to fluorescents’.

And in one of those irritating footnotes that rarely get read, the article reminds us that Signify was a member of United 4 Efficiency, a UN programme focused on helping emerging economies reduce energy consumption. It quit the programme in 2020, a few weeks after losing a struggle over fluorescent bulbs.

Yes, well  . . . the one thing that we know is that greenwash is everywhere and we can never afford to be anything other than super-vigilant towards real-life activity on the ground. Much better than relying on website claims inviting us to believe that we’re all skipping merrily towards a greener, safer, world.

The EU is not in the clear on this one.

Although the EEB article is a direct attack on Signify’s environmental credentials, it also has the EU itself in its sights. To quote from the article:

Maladministration

By law, the Commission should have removed all the major categories of fluorescent bulbs from stores by 2018. Its own experts confirmed that LED replacements were sufficiently available, reliable and affordable. Six criteria established in law (Article 5.1.a)  were sufficiently met, they confirmed. But the Commission only acted in mid June 2021, when it proposed banning the major categories of fluorescent lamps: most T5 and T8 models and most CFL bulbs. Public consultation on the first main lamp groups ends on 16 July.

EEB policy manager Elena Lymberidi-Settimo said: “Officials sat on their hands for 5 years allowing these lamps to stay on the market, despite knowing their environmental and health impacts. They badly let down citizens and the environment, apparently to favour corporate interests. In exposing those business interests today, we hope the Commission feels the pressure to fast-track the phasing-out of this old technology. We urge people to add their voice to the public consultation and have created a webpage  to help them.”

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You can read Signify’s response to this article on The Light Review at Signify: response to EEB greenwash claim

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Who is European Environmental Bureau (EEB)?

EEB is Europe’s largest network of environmental citizen’s organisations, bringing together over 170 civil society organisations from more than 35 European countries. EEB stands for sustainable development, environmental justice and participatory democracy.

Who is Signify?

Signify NV was formally known as Philips Lighting NV. It is a Dutch multinational corporation formed in 2016 as a result of the spin-off of the lighting division of Philips. The company still produces product under the Philips brand.

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John Bullock is the editor of The Light Review

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