Around 40,000 tonnes of waste each year could be saved just from upgrading and reusing lighting fittings.  EGG is a lighting manufacturer based in Glasgow who came to us to help them explore the possibilities of circular service design to address this.

Here’s what we learned together about helping organisations move towards more sustainable practices.

First, understand organisations’ attitudes to sustainability 

We conducted user research to better understand attitudes and barriers towards remanufactured products, working with potential customers to co-create and test initial ideas in focus group sessions.

It was really valuable for EGG to get a thorough understanding of stakeholders’ existing decision making processes, and a feel for how they were adjusting their organisational priorities around Net-Zero. This provided them with the insight they needed to refine their approach and develop a set of early service opportunities.

Designing circular services builds on pre-existing skills 

We were expecting to have to radically change our existing service design methods and tools to incorporate the circular aspect of the project. But we realised that they only needed slight tweaks. 

For example, we anticipated having to create blueprints that were – literally – circular, but we were able to use our usual linear format. We just had to add in key service feedback loops around product disposal, maintenance and refitting to ensure circularity. 

Sharing the process helps to get buy-in

We’re not the kind of supplier who works independently from the client and delivers a set of recommendations at the end. We aim to be open about the way we work. 

By involving EGG throughout the process, we were able to show them how we work and give them an early understanding of their customers. This meant findings were shared as they began to emerge rather than coming as a surprise. 

For example, EGG anticipated their product performance to be a key customer need that would emerge from our research. But we found this ranked comparatively low compared to ease of use, aesthetics and after-sales service. 

People tend to be more accepting of insights and ideas when they can see where they originated from

Research stops you from designing the wrong thing 

EGG was focused on providing its customers with remanufactured lighting as a service. But our research found that their customers were not yet ready for this. 

For instance, traditional capital ownership is still preferable for larger organisations such as the NHS and local authorities. Additionally, the concept of training for self-assembly and replacement open companies up to potential liability issues. 

It became clear that circular services require greater collaboration within clients’ organisations as they affect more people than “business as usual” procurement. For instance, a decision once made by a contractor based purely on cost might instead require lifecycle costing from facilities managers, a risk assessment from finance teams, benefits analysis from sustainability analysts and the need to fit in with a long term strategic plan set at a director level.

So we worked together to design a set of staggered service options to enable customers to transition to lighting as a service as and when they’re ready to.  

By conducting this research early, we reduced future risks and costs incurred by focusing on the wrong thing. By truly understanding customer needs, we were able to develop early ideas that are more likely to be adopted and successful in the long run.

A midpoint milestone significantly reduces stress later on

We agreed with EGG that we’d provide a research report to outline key findings from the customer interviews. 

We also agreed to share a condensed version of the report with project participants so that they could see their contribution and how it fits with others. 

Delivering this halfway through the project allowed us to review our findings and design direction together. This will be useful for them in the future to revisit and test as their designs develop. 

Communicating the value of circular services is vital

We learned there’s a gap between what people perceive the circular economy and remanufacturing to be, and what they actually are. Many said they were eager to extend their sustainable practices. In fact, some participants only contract suppliers who have sustainable policies of their own. 

However, their awareness of how products are remanufactured and their eagerness to adopt them was low. They had concerns around quality, performance, and finance. The benefits of circular services and remanufactured products need to be clearly communicated to reassure potential customers.

illustration of a lightbulb and some banknotes on a yellow backgroundEvidence and funding are essential to building confidence

We found that a lack of concrete examples contributed to our research participants’ concerns, particularly around risk. 

Organisations need to be reassured about new products and services. Case studies are the best way to do this. One participant said “It’s the unknown and lack of examples which make it difficult to sell.” This lack of success stories reduces confidence in remanufactured lighting, leading to a low adoption rate.

In organisations where there’s already a tight budget and high scrutiny of expenditure, they’re much more risk-averse and less likely to switch to a new service and product without evidence to reassure them. It’s a bit of a Catch-22 situation, but we believe that any future circular services and products will rely on the success of others to help increase customer adoption.

Public funding made this collaboration a reality. It de-risked the process for EGG Lighting who had not commissioned this sort of customer research and service design before. It’s vital that organisations continue to access this type of funding to bring the design industry and environmental sector together. It’s our collective responsibility to transform research challenges into live prototypes that can be tested and iterated quickly with people in real-life contexts.

an illustration of a globe on a blue backgroundExploring new territory requires trust and collaboration

We hope our work with EGG Lighting is the first of many circular services Snook will go on to design and influence. Our culture of sharing our process can work to help drive future realistic circular services for clients and customers. When you’re exploring new territory it’s important to collaborate so everyone involved can map the terrain and understand which turns to take together.