Sustainability in Action

Circular Design Principles

From linear to circular

The Zumtobel Group has set a goal to become climate-neutral by 2025 and to implement the circular economy principle. That would also make the Zumtobel Group a pioneer in this area of the lighting industry. Developing solutions to help customers meet their sustainability targets is also part of this goal. The Zumtobel Group will continue to offer an environment in which employees can grow personally and professionally and make an important contribution to the company’s success.

Our intention is to give our products a second, third and maybe even a fourth life. Through recycling, overhaul and reuse. Our circular design rules are firmly integrated in development processes and applied in the development of every new product. Workshops and training courses such as the Circular Design Rules Webinar, the Circular Design Rules Product Management Workshops or the Sustainability Core Knowledge Training Module help us to establish the circular economy as a core concept along our value chain and, with the minimisation of waste materials, we close our internal cycles. Regular analyses and the exchange of information with our partners show us the way to new, circular business models.

We are progressing well as we transfer from a linear economy to a circular economy and we continue to fully envelope circular design rules into our research and development mentality. From a solutions perspective, we have two key focus areas:

1 - Expanding our range of refurbishment kits

2 - Launch our first Cradle to Cradle products

The Zumtobel Group maintains partnerships with thought leaders and experts to jointly support the implementation of the circular economy to ensure our positive impact on the planet is fully maximised.

Our commitment to sustainability is closely related to the core business because of the important role played by energy-efficient, intelligently managed lighting technology in reducing worldwide resource consumption. This trend is supported by the continuous increase in the efficiency (lumens/watt) of LED luminaires and a parallel decline in the cost of LED chips. However, the steady increase in efficiency will slow as the physical limits are reached in the coming years. Artificial lighting is currently responsible for roughly 13% of worldwide electricity consumption and will continue to decline by 2030 due to the use of state-of-the-art lighting solutions. Commercial buildings and outdoor lighting – which represent light in exactly those areas of application that form the core expertise of the Zumtobel Group – are responsible for a good two-thirds of this consumption.

However, beyond energy efficiency, we look towards circular design rules (CDR). CDRs were introduced as a tool to ensure full integration in production processes and place the Zumtobel Group in a position to further develop products for the circular economy. This also includes the systematic minimisation of waste and optimisation for circular processes. The guideline for the Lighting Segment was implemented in global re-search and development during 2021/22 to ensure that the ecological potential of all new products developed in this segment is specified and developed with a view towards the circular economy. The Lighting Segment uses a scoring concept in the product development process to evaluate and optimise the capability for the circular economy. The model consists of three building blocks:

Circular Sourcing: Together with suppliers, all materials are gradually undergoing a review concerning their RSL (restricted substances list) conformity. The restricted substances list was issued by the Cradle to Cradle Product Innovation Institute and covers a list of materials which are considered hazardous to the environment and health. Knowledge of the exact content of materials and the identification of potentially critical contents form the basis to improve material quality and information across the entire product lifecycle and create a good starting point for use in the next product generation. Additionally, the use of good recyclable materials will be increased. A first step involved the identification of the recycling capability of the materials used in products, whereby the focus was placed on material properties and the development stage of an infrastructure for the material to be recycled. Similarly, he share of recycled materials in the products will also be gradually increased. Together with suppliers, the share of recyclate in the purchased materials has already been identified. This information makes it possible to estimate the final share during the product development process. A number of suppliers have confirmed a recyclate share of up to 45% for aluminium and up to 30% for steel.

Circular Design: The principle ”design for disassembly“ creates the basis for the fast and easy disassembly of materials and components after the end of the product use phase. The section on circular design in the circular design rules explains the consequent application of this principle, the design of interfaces for future upgrades, and the easy access and disassembly options for spare parts. The development and construction process can then ensure that:

1 - The product can be upgraded quickly with technically simple means

2 - Components can be easily and quickly disassembled and replaced (maintenance & upgrade) to extend the service life of a product for the customer

3 - The product can be disassembled into its individual parts at low cost for recycling (remanufacturing) or the materials can be “cleanly” separated for high-quality recycling (CDR return systems, reusable products and the related packaging materials).

Circular Systems: The frequently quoted “butterfly“ diagram developed by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation includes several value cascades for products in technical cycles in which products and materials can circulate. Metals and plastics are standard materials for technical cycles and are used in the production of luminaires and electronic components. The goal of the Zumtobel Group is to generate high added value and provide an attractive service offering for customers with a minimum of materials from primary resources. New possibilities are under development to extend the product lifecycle and to use products and materials in a circular flow with collaboration partners. The focus is on the following cycles:

1 - Maintenance & upgrade

2 - Remanufacturing

3 - High-value recycling