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Philips CEO Eyes an Even Bigger Sustainability Goal

Peter Dejong — AP/REX/Shutterstock

As Philips CEO Frans van Houten has transformed the one-time electronics and lighting maker into a health care technology company, he’s also put the 126-year-old Dutch firm on track toward a more sustainable future. In 2016, Philips launched a five-year sustainability program that sought, in part, to generate 15% of revenues from so-called circular solutions by 2020.

On the sidelines of the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland this week, van Houten won the Fortune Award for Circular Economy Leadership for his pursuit of a circular economy—development without waste. And in accepting the award, van Houten extended Philips’ sustainability goals even further: “You saw our pledge: 15% [in revenue from circular solutions] by 2020,” he said, “Well, I want 100% by 2025.”

Van Houten added that such an aim “is entirely reconcilable with the interests of shareholders and any other stakeholders; it’s just you have to put your mind to it.”

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Philips has so far returned some 7,000 tons of refurbished medical imaging equipment to the market and incorporated 6,000 tons of recycled plastics into new consumer products.

Van Houten received his honor at an annual awards ceremony, known as The Circulars, put on by WEF and the Forum of Young Global Leaders, in collaboration with Accenture Strategy. Fortune is a media partner. In its fourth year, the program seeks to draw attention to circular economy business models by celebrating organizations and individuals that deploy them successfully.

In addition to van Houten’s, six other awards were handed out at the ceremony:

—The Accenture Strategy Award for Circular Economy Multinational was awarded to IKEA, the Swedish furniture retailer.

—The Young Global Leaders Award for Circular Economy SME, which recognizes small- to medium-sized enterprises with $10 million to $100 million in turnover, was awarded to Apto Solutions, a provider of IT asset disposition services.

—The World Economic Forum Award for Circular Economy Public Sector was awarded to Sitra, Finland’s innovation fund.

—The CNBC Award for Circular Economy Investor, recognizing investment bodies or individuals that are providing financial backing for the circular economy, was awarded to ABN AMRO Bank NV, the Dutch bank.

—The Ecolab Award for Circular Economy Tech Disruptor for an investment body or individual providing financial backing for the circular economy to become mainstream, was awarded to AMP Robotics, a firm that uses computer vision, machine learning, and robotics for recycling and industrial applications.

—The Dell Circular Economy People’s Choice Award was awarded to Banyan Nation, a plastic recycling startup.

In Davos, van Houten said that Philips recruited other firms—the likes of Dell, HP, and Cisco—to join its vow to take “equipment back once the customer doesn’t want it anymore.”

“When you make a courageous statement, people start to follow you and that’s nice,” he said. “I think we need more courageous leaders who say, ‘Come with us!’ because there’s so much more needed.”

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