Signify’s sustainability boss quietly leaves the company

Nov. 16, 2021
Nicola Kimm takes up similar post with German cement maker. All’s not lost, as the lighting company scores higher than ever in a key environmental ranking.

Anyone who has been paying attention to Signify’s impressive strides in sustainability practices knows that the public-facing person spearheading its push has been head of sustainability, environment, health & safety Nicola Kimm.

So it came as a surprise when CEO Eric Rondolat pledged to “ask Harry” about the company’s commitment to CO2-free shipping, after Sven Weier of UBS Investment Bank quizzed him on the subject during a recent analysts’ call to discuss third-quarter financial results.

LEDs Magazine couldn’t help wondering: Who’s Harry? And whoever he is, why wouldn’t Rondolat ask Nicola? We were in listen-only mode on the call, so we followed up with the company afterwards via email.

A spokesperson explained that “Harry” is Harry Verhaar, Signify’s head of global public & government affairs, and one of three Signify representatives at the recently concluded COP26 global climate conference.

But why not Nicola Kimm?

It turns out that Kimm has quietly left the company. A quick Internet search shows that on Sept. 1 she joined the management board of German cement maker HeidelbergCement Group as chief sustainability officer. Cement, steel, and other heavy industries rely on CO2-emitting, high-temperature manufacturing processes. Scientists and engineers have for some time been investigating how to mitigate the carbon emissions, via methods including changing the raw materials, altering the heat source, and capturing the carbon.

The Signify spokesperson did not offer much detail on Kimm’s departure, other than to say she left “a few months” ago to take “a next step in her career.”

Kimm had been visibly at the environmental helm. She and CFO Javier Van Engelen were the only cross-division corporate executives to present along with boss Rondolat at the company’s online Capital Markets Day last December. Signify has routinely tapped Kimm for announcements of some of their environmental milestones, such as hitting carbon neutrality in operations, converting to renewable power sources, and eliminating plastic from consumer packaging.

LEDs has learned that a key member of her team, former head of sustainability Robbert Slooten, has also left the company. Slooten was very involved in the consumer packaging initiative. He joined Schneider Electric as renewable energy and carbon advisory senior consultant in July, according to his LinkedIn page.

We asked Signify if sustainability staffing has been caught up in some of the company’s significant ongoing cost-cutting.

“Our central organization has undergone quite the reorganization in the past year,” the spokesperson said. “I cant go into individual implications.”

The company has promoted Maurice Loosschilder to the role of global head of sustainability — a title that is not as broad as Kimm’s. Loosschilder had been head of sustainability strategy & reporting prior to stepping up to his new role in June, according to his LinkedIn page.

Whatever the reason for the comings and goings, Signify has still managed to rank high in sustainability ratings. For example, the company announced just recently that the S&P Global Corporate Sustainability Assessment has now placed it in the top 1% in its industry. S&P gave the company perfect scores in many categories, including climate change strategy and risk management, product design and innovation, human rights assessment, mitigation and remediation, and board diversity policy, Signify noted.

The company’s environmental and sustainability initiatives fall under its umbrella heading of Brighter Lives, Better World. The company spends considerable effort advocating for and implementing green initiatives, such as when Rondolat recently called for accelerating the glacial pace of smart lighting initiatives, and when Signify announced it had manufactured around 9000 luminaires for Bogota’s El Dorado International Airport using an environmentally-friendly 3-D printing process.

It’s not clear yet what its commitment is to CO2-free shipping — per Weier of UBS’ question. LEDs Magazine is also awaiting an answer regarding whether Rondolat will sign up to a movement aiming ban fluorescent lighting that contains environmentally hazardous mercury.

MARK HALPER is a contributing editor for LEDs Magazine, and an energy, technology, and business journalist ([email protected]).

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About the Author

Mark Halper | Contributing Editor, LEDs Magazine, and Business/Energy/Technology Journalist

Mark Halper is a freelance business, technology, and science journalist who covers everything from media moguls to subatomic particles. Halper has written from locations around the world for TIME Magazine, Fortune, Forbes, the New York Times, the Financial Times, the Guardian, CBS, Wired, and many others. A US citizen living in Britain, he cut his journalism teeth cutting and pasting copy for an English-language daily newspaper in Mexico City. Halper has a BA in history from Cornell University.