GLA: Do the right thing

9th May 2023

In this column, various members of the GreenLight Alliance explain the steps that their companies are taking as part of their broader environmental and social responsibility programmes.

“Integrity gives you real freedom because you have nothing to fear since you have nothing to hide.” – Zig Ziglar

In recent issues we have dived deep into metrics, legislation, and regulations. In this issue we ease back and take a broader overview to look at the emerging trend for examination and verification of a corporation’s broader environmental and social impact. Whether you are familiar with the acronym CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) or ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance), we are talking about largely the same thing; the values and responsibilities that a company proclaims to live by. Increasingly companies are choosing, or being obliged, to publish these and to verify them, by means of independent organisations.

This can be to lock-in mission focus, satisfy commercial prequalification criteria, aid recruitment, impress (potential) shareholders, customers or simply to drive internal behavioural changes. Whatever the reason, we are seeing a growing number of new icons appearing in PR output from companies, including across the lighting industry. Primarily manufacturers, but the design and specification community too. The GreenLight Alliance see this trend as encouraging, as more and more companies mobilise, not a moment too soon, to engage with the mammoth challenges we face. While specific approaches vary, the direction of travel is encouraging.

With the recent proposals around the world for legal consequences of making unsubstantiated green claims, we expect to see even more rigour and independent verification.

Whether coaxed or instinctive, we at the GreenLight Alliance welcome the progress. Here follows a brief tour through some of the most prominent examples in our industry, along with words by some of their proponents.

We leave you with this observation from someone who has demonstrated that business success can go hand in hand with integrity, in the broadest sense of the word:

“…it’s always been difficult for us to lead an examined life as a corporation. I’ve always felt like a company has the responsibility to not wait for the government to tell it what to do or to wait for the consumer to tell it what to do, but as soon as it finds out it’s doing something wrong, stop doing it.” – Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia Founder, environmentalist, philanthropist.

Employee Ownership

Arfon Davies, UK Lighting Design Director, Arup

Arup has been employee-owned since 1977 and is currently the third largest employee-owned firm in the UK. Our ownership structure gives us the freedom to decide where we can make a difference – investing in the research, products, partnerships, and skills we believe in. Rather than staying focused on immediate shareholder returns, it gives us more ability to plan for the long-term benefit of the firm and our members, making decisions that keep us resilient and support our members’ passions.

It’s also a model that removes barriers to progress as we work with others to create a more sustainable future for people and planet. It gave us the flexibility to become one of the first organisations to commit to UN Sustainable Development Goals, allows us to carry out pro bono work that benefits communities, and makes it easier for us to fund and develop solutions that accelerate the transition to net zero.

ISO 14001

Colin Ball, Lighting Director, BDP

In accordance with ISO 14001, data has been collected for our studios since 2010, and has increased in accuracy and robustness across this period as problems have been overcome, particularly in our regional studios. Our energy and water reduction targets were, up to 2018, based upon an improvement on the 2013 baseline year. 2018 concluded our five-year reporting period from our 2013 baseline, where we exceeded each of our targets – keeping our Scope 1 and 2 emissions below 1000kgCO2e/capita, implementing measures to encourage sustainable travel decisions, and reducing water consumption by 5% per capita.

In 2020, we made significant updates to our Sustainability Policy to protect and enhance the five capitals (natural, human, manufactured and financial) across all aspects of our operation. This included setting Science Based Targets for our business operations. We have also committed to achieving net-zero operational carbon of our studios by 2025 and reducing waste. We are in the process of developing and integrating minimum environmental performance standards for our projects.

We review the performance targets every three years to ensure performance remains valid and suitably ambitious. Where targets are achieved at or prior to this review, new targets are developed.

Sustainable Development Goals

Alexia Gkika, Associate Lighting Designer, Buro Happold

Buro Happold is committed to the promotion of equitable and sustainable development that ensures the wellbeing of people and the enhancement and protection of the environment, in alignment with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. We recognise that the work we do as engineers and consultants has long-lasting implications for the ability of our clients to meet their own net zero goals and to realise long-term value from their assets.

In March 2021, Buro Happold set validated 1.5°C aligned science-based targets to reduce absolute (total) scope 1, 2 and 3 greenhouse gas emission 21% by financial year (FY) 2025 from FY 2020 base year. This year we have carried out detailed calculations of our carbon emissions (Scope 3) related to purchased goods and services by applying the Greenhouse Gas Protocol spend-method.

The above is a succinct extract from Buro Happold’s annual Global Sustainability Report 2022 – please refer to the extended document for more information.

Living Wage

Kevan Shaw, Design Director, KSLD

We chose to become accredited Living Wage employers as part of our CSR policy a few years ago. While we know Lighting Design is not among the higher paid professions, there is no way we would expect to even pay interns anything as low as the living wage. As a part of CSR and the requirements of accreditation we need to ensure our suppliers are also paying the Living Wage. Doing this created a re-think from our cleaning contractor, who did agree to up the wages of their staff for a very minimal increase in our contract price. The idea of the living wage goes far beyond this and forces us to look at all our suppliers, for example courier companies that we use, online suppliers for stationary, and contractors we employ are all chosen from accredited Living Wage Employers. Making these enquiries certainly opens your eyes to the corporate behaviour of the people we do business with.

Social Value UK

Lauren Bailey, Head of Social Value, Ridge and Partners

We are proud that Ridge has become an organisational member of Social Value UK. We understand the importance of being a responsible business, ensuring that local economies, people, and the environment receive a positive benefit from the delivery of our services. As we look to further unlock social value in our construction projects, we will work with clients and supply chains to deliver added social, economic and environmental value.

By partnering with Social Value UK, we are committing to implementing the eight principles of social value. This will see us improve our social value accounting practices and strengthen the impact we have on our clients, our people, and communities. We will also be implementing new accounting methodology to measure and report on activity in line with BS 8950 – the British Standard for social value.

1% for the Planet

Chris Miller, Co-Founder and Director, skinflint

For skinflint, charitable giving, and sustainability have always been important to our CRS strategy. This commitment was formalised in 2021 when we partnered with 1% For The Planet. Meaning, each year, 1% of skinflint’s gross sales are donated to a range of approved environmental partners. Employees voted on a range of NGOs that are mission aligned; that have the same goals and purposes as the brand, but that also mean a lot to them personally. Supporting our local community as well as thinking nationally and globally, we eventually settled on Cool Earth, The River’s Trust and Surfers Against Sewage. As champions of the circular economy, elsewhere skinflint chose to eschew Black Friday by instead matching sales over a five-day period and donating the same amount to these charities. The hope is to inspire other businesses and individuals to do the same.

B Corp

Dave Hollingsbee, Managing Director, Stoane Lighting

Looking back, B Corp certification was as important a milestone in the company’s journey to becoming employee owned. Only a little while after certifying did we realise that we had gone a long way to satisfying a niggling existential question of what it’s all about. Formally altering our articles of association to give stakeholders primacy over shareholders, as we became a benefit corporation, seemed logical and felt good.

Whether the “B” appealed to clients or recruits was not the main point, though anecdotally it seems to be increasingly positively recognised. The holistic validation across five pillars: Governance, Workers, Community, Environment and Customers, was rigorous and extensive. The team wear the B proudly. It’s becoming a regular touchstone against which decisions are gauged. It drives better internal practices and forces a cruel level of transparency. We are hungry to build on our score during our three-year recertification later this year.

Cradle to Cradle

Tim Bowes, Head of Lighting Application, Whitecroft

With the development of circular lighting solutions, we were keen look for third party verification to support our actions. The reason for this was twofold. Firstly, it was to provide transparency of our design choices to support our customers in making circular and sustainable product choices. Secondly, and as importantly, it was to provide a roadmap to help our business make the right choices and support future business model innovation.

The implementation of the Cradle to Cradle Product standard into our ‘Whitecroft Vitality’ range of products, means an alignment with “the global standard for materials, products and systems that positively impact people and planet.” The standard looks at five key areas of design and business actions: Material Health, Product Circularity, Water and Soil Stewardship, Clean Air & Climate Protection and Social Fairness. To date we have eight product families as part of ‘Whitecroft Vitality’ certified to bronze level.


Sebastian Gann, Sustainability Director, Zumtobel Group

The Zumtobel Group has a long history of working towards a sustainable future – from developing the first Environmental Product Declaration in 2011 to its technology brand Tridonic being one of the first manufacturers of electronic lighting components to receive a Cradle to Cradle certification for some of their LED modules. By following 12 of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, along with ensuring that all our European production sites are ISO 14001 certified, the Zumtobel Group were honoured to achieve the EcoVadis Gold medal in 2021, with Tridonic separately achieving Silver this year. EcoVadis is a sustainability rating platform that looks at a company’s performance in four key categories: environmental responsibility; labour and human rights policy; sustainable procurement; and ethical business practices. In this way EcoVadis doesn’t just look at how a product is made but what the business that produces it stands for. Given the Zumtobel Group’s continuously evolving sustainability agenda, we of course hope to achieve an improved EcoVadis score when the rankings are next updated.

LEED Certification

Xander Cadisch, Sustainability Director and Senior Project Manager, Phos

For Phos, LEED compliance is a vital part of what we do. Along with our B Corp accreditation, the LEED certification has cemented our commitment to offering efficient and cost-effective lighting solutions. Phos chose LEED accreditation to help reduce the environmental impact of our operations and buildings, and align further with our company’s values and mission. It also helps us appeal to customers, who are becoming more conscious of the environmental impact of the products and services they purchase.

Finally, LEED accreditation can lead to cost savings over time. By implementing sustainable building practices and technologies, we have been able to reduce our energy consumption and lower our operating costs.

Overall, there are many reasons why we chose to pursue LEED accreditation but there really are no downsides.

All of the contributors above would be glad to tell you more if you have questions. Also on the radar and perhaps some topics we will see more of in the near future include:

Social Enterprise UK (

Make my money matter(

Better Business Act (

Architects Declare (

Race to Zero (