Let there be lumens

Last week I attended an event in London on Resource Scarcity and the Circular Economy. 

Written By Iain Gulland - Chief Executive, Zero Waste Scotland  |  9 May 13

 Although the day was framed around some of the high-level opportunities in moving to a more circular economy, it was evident that to make this meaningful for most businesses there is a continuing need for direct engagement and practical support.  That is true of the top corporations – for whom Carbon Trust research shows there is still an under appreciation of resource security when compared with issues of carbon emissions and energy efficiency– to the smaller businesses that are the bulwark of our economy.

We’re clear that to achieve our goal of zero waste we need to pursue twin strategies of making immediate resource efficiency gains and re-engineering economic systems and business models to bring about long-term change.  The two strands are complementary and we need to make our engagement with businesses appropriate to where they are on that journey.  For some, that will still be through some basic work around energy and water efficiency and waste reduction.  But bringing all our support together under Resource Efficient Scotland means we can engage around the bigger picture too and help businesses progress.

Companies that are already engaged in this agenda are taking a similar approach too.  Phillips, as one example, has developed a new LED lighting system which is 75% more efficient than a normal light bulb.  Given that an estimated 20% of global electricity demand is for lighting, switching to LEDs could have a big impact on emissions and lead to significant cost savings.

For most businesses they will see changing their light bulbs as entry level stuff and just simple common sense.  But Philips are taking this one step further by beginning to move to leasing lighting systems rather than just making a quick sale.  This model can drive further efficiency gains and cost savings, create new business opportunities for the supplier, and means they retain ownership of the metals and components used so they avoid future costs and risks around supply of raw materials.  And there’s a behaviour change shift for the customer that could be really powerful in embedding more systems thinking.

Leasing as a business model is nothing new.  One photocopier provider spoke at the same event about how a pay-per-sheet approach has been fundamental in encouraging innovation in their marketplace.

I’m interested in how we set an example within our own office.  Lighting seems a good place to start.  I have on my desk a recent survey highlighting how many lumens I need in every corner of the building.  I’d like to now go out and procure the supply of lumens instead of buying new lights.  I’m interested to see what the market would give me?  Who would bid and what would their offer be?  Would selling me an outcome rather a product mean they think differently?  Would they see it as an opportunity to innovate?  Could I specify an emissions requirement to build sustainability into the equation too?  Could the contract be set up in such a way that it encourages the supplier to upgrade me to new technologies as they come along, rather than locking me in to long-term equipment lease contracts?

My assumption is that if anything comes along which makes providing the lumens cheaper my provider will seek to introduce this quickly to ensure they make the most of any cost savings.  To do this they will I’m sure be wanting to be proactive in supporting innovation, creating a dynamic market pull to the benefit of both me, the consumer, and themselves.

Is anyone out there contemplating this approach? Is anyone providing such a service to businesses? Does anyone think there is some mileage here? Tweet me or the team with your thoughts. Perhaps we could help make this a reality.

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