light, compact=About 18 months ago we needed to buy a new vacuum cleaner. We went to the local shop, Blokker, where we seriously considered a Miele model. For some reason my husband reckons this brand lasts longer. But then my eye fell on a bright green compact model made by Philips. What I liked about this one was its small size and light weight. Plus, it cost less than half the Miele. Making it even more attractive was its claim to have the most compatible vacuum cleaner bags. The S-Bag, we were told, was a new standard developed by Philips and a host of other consumer electronics firms. So consumers would never be confronted with the prospect of running out of bags before the gadget ran out of life. How sustainable! We thought. So Philips won. In fact, as our house, like many in Amsterdam, has steep stairs, we decided to buy TWO Philips’ vacuum cleaners instead of one Miele. One for upstairs, one for downstairs. Very practical! However, about three months ago we ran out of S-Bags and went back to Blokker, only to find that the retailer where we bought the machines no longer stocks the bags to go with them. Visits to a number of other household equipment stores brought no luck either. A week or so later I attended the Global Reporting Initiative conference in Amsterdam, where one of the featured speakers was – lo and behold – Henk de Bruin, head of sustainability at Philips! After his speech, I told Mr De Bruin my vacuum cleaner tale of woe, feeling somewhat petty for complaining about a tiny personal inconvenience at a conference addressing such big world issues. I thought he might change the subject. He didn’t. I thought he might tell me to buy one of the new models with washable bags, or even a bagless model. He didn’t. Instead, he asked for my email address and said he’d get back to me. Within 48 hours, Henk sent me an email with the name, address and telephone number of an Amsterdam shop that stocks the S-Bag. I biked over there the next day and found the bags in stock. Philips is consistently ranked as one of the most sustainable companies worldwide. Here’s one reason why. Thanks Henk!

Submitted by Emma Robson. emma@mediawise.local