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Interview with Nicola Kimm, 
Head of Sustainability, Environment, Health & Safety


We now present part two of our interview with Nicola Kimm, Head of Sustainability, Environment, Health & Safety, Philips Lighting. If you missed the first part, click here to catch up. Here we’ll hear Nicola’s thoughts on how Philips Lighting plans to achieve such ambitious sustainability goals, the company’s achievements so far, and how to inspire an entire company to make sustainability a priority.

What are the key enablers to reaching the 2020 goals set out in the Brighter Lives, Better World program?

I would say first and foremost, it’s about getting our employees engaged with the program. They need to see how this strategy is reflected in their own jobs and include our sustainability message when they speak to customers. If that happens, then they can become sustainability ambassadors. 

One way we’re getting our employees involved in sustainability is by having them become directly involved in our decisions. One way we are engaging employees is through our carbon neutral journey. We need to reduce our own footprint in operations, logistics and business travel, but we will also invest in carbon offsetting projects to support communities. In June, our employees had the opportunity to vote on the carbon offsetting project they feel most strongly about. Based on the votes, we chose a reforestation project in Columbia. Our colleagues were passionate about voting, especially those in LATAM who wanted to make a positive impact in their region.

Reaching our 2020 goal also means finding like-minded companies we can partner with such as Heineken and Unilever and, of course, allying with the government through official measures such as the circular economy legislation coming up in the EU. By being innovative on sustainability, we’re then at an advantage by being ahead of the curve and we can help to encourage other companies to follow suit. 

How is this strategy different from previous goals? 


We’ve never had a carbon footprint reduction program that’s this ambitious. Our goal is to go to zero and that requires engagement all over the value chain and with our customers so that we can aim for sustainable revenues. 

This strategy also differs from previous ones in that we also want to bring social aspects into it. When we talked about sustainable revenues before, it was only about energy efficiency. But now we’ve launched eight sustainable focal areas where three of the topics are social – human-centric lighting, access to light in off-grid areas and basic needs, which is about providing more food and water for a growing population. I feel it really shows what an innovative company we are and that we’re working towards meeting future needs.

Since the launch of the BLBW program last year, where have you seen achievements that show you are moving in the right direction?


Investing in renewable electricity has been an exciting achievement. One big step was our investment in a wind farm in Texas. Now, all of Philips Lighting’s electricity in the US is renewable. In fact, 67% of our electricity last year came from renewable sources. But part of that is also buying renewable certificates. 


We’re also committing region by region to going carbon neutral. Last year it was in Middle East and Turkey and this year it’ll be in China. By doing it region by region, we’re seeing really good local engagement. The last months we’ve gotten much more clarity on what shape our carbon offsetting programs will take and how we’ll concretely go about reducing our carbon footprint. 


There’s also more engagement and urgency on the topic of safety.  I think my role is a little bit different from other people working on sustainability at other companies in that I’m involved in operations a bit more. I feel fortunate that my role is designed like this and that we can actually make things happen by sharing best practices among sites. That’s really effective.


We also won a few top ratings last year. With our best-in-class scores on innovation, climate strategy, and supply chain management, we achieved the status of Industry leader in the Electrical Components and Equipment category of the 2017 Dow Jones Sustainability Index. And on the Corporate Knights list of the World’s 100 Most Sustainable Companies, we placed 7th, also with Royal. We also have an A Rating from the CDP which is a very prestigious ranking.

How do you inspire colleagues and embed your sustainability vision across the company?


I try to engage with as many different departments as possible. I feel passionate about the topics of waste and safety and we are gaining momentum by finding ambassadors for sustainability in our company. We’re already quite advanced in what we do, but there are always opportunities to improve and make a meaningful impact. It’s also my job to get people’s hearts into it, to get people to think about the impact of what it means to be sustainable.  I think it’s important to not just focus on numbers, but get people thinking about how what we are doing affects their lives and the people around them. For example, how important health and safety is. Also, we aim to bring more storytelling into how we track our progress in sustainability. This helps people internalize what we are doing.

Are there any innovations in the area of sustainability that have the wow factor and you believe will change how we approach sustainability further down the line?


That would definitely be the circular economy. People are thinking more about how they can re-use products rather than discarding them. For lighting, it’s not just designing for simple assembly – it’s also about disassembly. How can you take apart, reuse and upgrade our products so they don’t end up in a landfill?

How sustainable are you in your personal life? Do you take it home with you?


I’m passionate about sustainability in the way I live. I take public transport as much as possible, avoid unnecessary travel, am conscious of how I use water and energy at home and avoid food waste. I’m truly concerned about our environment and safety, the world we are leaving our children, and aim to inspire others to do the same.



Dr. Nicola Kimm is the Global Head of Sustainability, Environment, Health & Safety for Philips Lighting. She develops and drives initiatives to embed sustainability throughout the organization and engages stakeholders to create positive social and environmental impact. Her organization is responsible for sustainability strategy & reporting, EHS, sustainable design, and circular economy. Previously, she headed sustainability in the chemicals and FMCG sectors and has held various roles in operations, innovation and communications in Europe, Asia and North America. She holds a PhD in Economics and Business Engineering, MSc and BSc degrees in Chemical Engineering, and a BSc in Ecology.