Management Cases

More inclusive and sustainable: the new life of Signify

The challenge

Transforming the corporate culture to center on the values of diversity, inclusion and environmental sustainability. No mean feat, the goal that Signify management had set for themselves, considering that the majority of their employees were over-40 men.

Established in 2018 as the evolution of Philips Lighting, the main challenge for Signify was to integrate old and new competencies to compete on the market with a fair, modern organizational culture. To support the integration process between the professionals who were already working in the company (and who belonged to the Philips culture) and the new hires, in 2018 the company invested €354 million. CEO Eric Rondolat, champion of the organizational revamp, also launched a training program for employees at every level in the company. First up was the management team, whose members for the most part shared very similar backgrounds, experiences and nationalities. But change did not come immediately; it took effort and commitment from everyone in the company)

The numbers


Industry: Lighting

Year of foundation: 2018

Headquarters: Eindhoven

Revenues from last year: €6.8 million

Employees: 37,000

From 2016 to 2017, the company created a network of employees with diverse genders, ages, nationalities, backgrounds and functions; they participated on a voluntary basis in corporate initiatives geared toward inclusion. The stated aim was to “promote an inclusive culture, launch local initiatives and share good practices” during the periodic meetings with Signify management.

In 2019 a committee was set up with the objective of deciding on policies addressing the question of Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) at a global level, actioning new initiatives and monitoring existing ones, and working on corporate processes for recruitment, selection, personal development and career advancement. This committee worked closely with the Chief Human Resources Officer and other company stakeholders. An ad hoc company D&I policy was also established and a strategy was put in place.

Specifically, gender and age were identified as the two main areas of diversity that Signify would focus these efforts on. The company left it up to individual countries to choose a third diversity category to work on. (In France, the choice was people with disabilities; in the US, ethnicity and in Italy interculturality): this was called the 2+1 Strategy.

In the context of D&I, there were myriad outcomes. In Italy, Israel and Greece, for example, gender and age strategies were integrated with interculturality. Recruitment, selection and personal development processes were geared to create a mix of different nationalities. With regard to the question of gender, in Italy the company attempted to rectify the low number of women specializing in technical-scientific subjects by hiring several women in various corporate functions; an analysis was also conducted on the wage gap between male and female employees. Since few women were being promoted to managerial positions, the company needed to work on the corporate culture and included the target of doubling the percentage of women in leadership positions in the new business plan (from 17% in 2019 to 34% by 2025). What’s more, the generational mix was skewed with respect to the industry and the new business model; the ambition was to create a more suitable one to attract young people, to double their number in the company roster from 10.5% in 2019 to 20% by 2025. And finally, thanks to the policies implemented in recent years, new hires in staff positions have reached gender parity (half are men, half women).

Along with setting clear objectives and KPIs, a very detailed training program was also set up for employees at various levels of the company (young people, middle managers and senior managers) and for different targets (e.g. women), as well as a monitoring and reporting system for the fine-tuning phase.

There were obstacles along the path to initiating and implementing the D&I strategy; these involved communication throughout the company, engagement of all employees in building an open, inclusive culture, and coordination of multiple activities. Some forms of resistance also emerged, along with boomerang effects linked to the introduction of objectives and KPIs. Yet once the company became aware of these criticalities, it established countermeasures to apply the strategy more effectively. For example, there was more coordination among the various stakeholders (committees, networks, HR), and awareness-raising actions for the entire company population.

Another challenge for Signify was the area of environmental sustainability. The technological evolution of their products and the introduction of LED lighting generated huge energy-saving benefits. And seeing as energy is a key industry in the battle against climate change, being responsible for 36% of greenhouse gas emissions, Signify decided to reduce its internal consumption and switch to clean energy sources. Today, 94% of all power used by the company comes from renewables, and 90% of the waste from production processes is recycled.


  • Signify adopted a development path linked to the issues of diversity and inclusion that prompted the company to introduce new organizational perspectives, new competencies, and new tools for managing its work force. At a local level, training courses were offered both for veteran employees (to reinforce their inclusive leadership skills) young people under 30 (to learn how to manage teams more fairly), and for women (to prepare them to take on managerial roles).
  • With strong backing from top management, the D&I strategy is still a work in progress, but an appreciable impact has reverberated throughout the company. In July of 2021, Eric Rondolat became one of the latest business leaders to sign the CEO’s Statement of Support for the United Nations Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs). By supporting the WEPs, Signify demonstrates its commitment to equal opportunities and fair treatment for all of its employees. One month later, Signify signed on to the UN’s Global Compact Target Gender Equality Program, which promotes the adoption of inclusive business models. Progress on these objectives is constantly being monitored and D&I priorities are set by the Board.
  • In recent years additional initiatives have been put into play in Italy to promote diversity and inclusion beyond the company’s borders, for example by encouraging employees to participate in Gay Pride in Milan, or onboarding the Association of Homosexual Parents to raise awareness about the struggles of people who identify as LGBTQ.