Lighting consumes about the same electricity in Europe as the residential electricity consumption of France, the UK, the Netherlands, Portugal and Italy combined, according to Cool Products, a coalition of European NGOs campaigning on energy labelling. However, they also declare that a ‘lighting revolution’ is underway, with the use of highly energy-efficient LED light bulbs increasing due to falling costs and legislation requirements.
This guide covers light bulb brands sold in the UK and rates the companies that produce them on their sustainability policies. Some of the supermarkets also have their own-brand light bulbs. For their rating, please refer to our supermarkets guide.
All the brands in this report sell LED light bulbs and some of the brands sell halogen and compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). CFLs are also referred to as ‘energy saving light bulbs’.
It’s no longer possible to buy traditional incandescent bulbs which have been phased out in Europe.
Score table highlights
While LED light bulbs are marketed as eco-products the companies behind the brands may not be so committed to reducing their environmental impacts. Ethical Consumer has looked at each of the featured brands’ environmental report, supply chain management policy and conflict minerals policy. The research found that many of the companies fail to publicly address any of these issues.
Only Kingfisher Plc and Verbatim (Mitsubishi) received Ethical Consumer’s best rating for environmental reporting.
TCP and Integral failed to have any environmental reporting or statements on their websites while Wilko, Wesfarmers (Homebase) and MiniSun’s websites contained vague statements committing them to reducing their environmental impacts but did not provide any targets or details about how they would achieve it. Consequently, these brands received Ethical Consumer’s worst rating for environmental reporting.
Supply chain management and China
On the whole, the companies in this report fail to demonstrate any commitment to workers’ rights within their supply chains. There are exceptions, with Philips and Kingfisher scoring a middle. However, the lack of policies on workers’ rights in this sector was of concern considering the likelihood of light bulbs being manufactured in China, where workers’ rights violations are common place, especially within the electronics industry.
Under Ethical Consumer’s rating system all electronic manufacturers are expected to have a policy on conflict minerals. All the companies scored worst in this category apart from Toshiba and Philips, however, this is not that surprising considering the civil society pressure those three companies have faced. There was limited or no mention of the issue by other brands in this report.
Other ratings explained
Eagled-eyed readers may have spotted that some of the brands on the table receive marks under Ethical Consumer’s animal testing category. Mitsubishi received a mark due to the fact they have been involved in animal testing for medical purposes. The other companies, Wickes, Wilko, Diall and Homebase, sell garden chemicals.
The Energy Saving Trust states that lighting accounts for 18% of a typical household’s electricity bill. Therefore, choosing energy-efficient light bulbs can make a large difference to household expenditure.
All light bulbs are rated under the European Union's Energy Efficiency label, which helps consumers understand the energy usage of the product they are buying. LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs are the most energy-efficient lights bulbs that you can buy for your home. The table below shows the different EU energy efficiency rating for each type of light bulb, with A++ being the most efficient.
|LED||A++ to A|
|CFL||A to B|
|Halogen||B to F|
In 2009, the EU began phasing out inefficient bulbs in favour of energy-efficient alternatives. The incandescent light bulb had existed for 130 years, but a global need to reduce carbon emissions has made it obsolete. Incandescent bulbs were turned off in the EU in September 2012.
The next stage of the EU’s plan to improve energy efficiency is to ban halogen light bulbs, which will prohibit the import and sale of your average 60 W halogen light bulb. The original ban was meant to come into force from September 2016, however, a last-minute stay of execution was permitted and the ban extended until September 2018. Retailers including Ikea have already stopped selling halogen and CFL light bulbs, citing the reduced cost and improved quality of LED light bulbs, which have made them more attractive to consumers.
Following the decision by the UK to leave the EU, the Telegraph newspaper, unsurprisingly, called on the UK government to get rid of the ‘red tape choking Britain’ and bring back the incandescent light bulb! Considering most of the world, including the US and China, is phasing out the use of incandescent bulbs it is unlikely that the UK will roll back the legislation.
False efficiency claims
In December 2015, the Swedish Consumer Association found that brands such as Ikea, Philips, GE and Osram were exaggerating the energy performance of light bulbs on packaging. In an article in the Guardian it was claimed that “the discrepancy is caused by manufacturers taking advantage of leeways – known as ‘tolerances’ – in official testing procedures for bulbs.” The bulbs were found to be up to 25% less efficient than was claimed.
A later article explained: “The mismatch between advertising claims and reality arose because EU energy performance tests allowed lighting manufacturers to undershoot their advertised brightness ratings by 10%.” It was reported that the EU had known about the problem since 2013.
In April 2016, the EU voted to close loopholes that allow home appliance manufacturers to make misleading claims about their products’ energy performance, but light bulbs were excluded from the new rules.