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Festive Decoration at Allee-Center Leipzig, Germany (left), Thomas Mark, President of MK Illumination (right) /// credit: MK Illumination
Festive Decoration at Allee-Center Leipzig, Germany (left), Thomas Mark, President of MK Illumination (right) /// credit: MK Illumination

Festive Lighting That Supports Long-term Sustainability Goals

Festive lighting and seasonal decorations remain key to creating the right ambience and attracting visitors during the holiday season. By collaborating with a sustainably-minded festive lighting supplier that offers creativity, innovation, and experience, centers can achieve two objectives: They can support internal sustainability targets and maintain their positions as vibrant community hubs.

By Thomas Mark

Given the urgent need to reduce CO2 and other emissions in our changing world, one might ask whether festive lighting still makes sense. The short answer to that question is a resounding “Yes!” Retail spaces play an essential role in nurturing and sustaining local communities. Not only do they provide shopping opportunities, but they are also cherished local hubs that foster intergenerational connections, host events, support community initiatives, and offer a variety of activities. “It turns out that people who have more social interaction with family, friends, and the community are happier, physically healthier, and live longer than people who are less well connected,” states Dr. Robert Waldinger, Director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development.

Festive lighting bolsters this essential role of shopping centers, malls, and retail outlets within communities, and in doing so, is part of how retail spaces play a part in supporting sustainable societies and strong communities. The retail sector provides convivial gathering places in which to make that happen. Research shows that festive lighting creates unique atmospheres that turn spaces into convivial places that draw people out of their homes, bring people together, and create feelings of security, well-being, and a sense of community – even between strangers. Festive lighting clearly makes sense. The current issue at hand is ensuring that the products used to create lighting experiences are as sustainable as possible.

A More Sustainable Approach to Festive and Atmospheric Lighting

Forgoing festive and atmospheric lighting is neither practical nor socially sustainable. As a result, center managers need to collaborate with suppliers that are already committed to sustainability, which requires a deeper understanding of their suppliers’ CSR credentials. Here are some key considerations for the retail real estate sector when selecting festive lighting suppliers in tender processes. Every aspect of a product contributes to a shopping center’s environmental footprint, with the majority of emissions occurring during the production phase 80% of CO2 emissions are generated during the production phase of lighting and decorative products. When selecting a festive lighting supplier, the following factors need to be at the top of a center manager’s priority list:

  • Low-emission production phases
  • Long-lasting products
  • Rigorous sustainability practices throughout the supply chain

Lighting and decorative products that last longer mean that one production phase is all that’s needed to brighten up and enliven retail spaces for many years: As a result, centers can minimize their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions every year that they are able to reuse products. If emissions can also be reduced during the production phase, then that’s even better.

80% of CO2 emissions are generated during the production phase of lighting and decorative products. /// credit: MK Illumination

What festive lighting suppliers offer long-lasting products? Independent tests conducted by sustainability consultancy firm denkstatt show that MK Illumination’s light chains have the longest lifespan on the market.

Through the use of innovative materials, MK Illumination has also been able to make additional reductions to its carbon footprint. In 2023, they introduced a low-carbon aluminum option to their product production, which represents a 75% reduction in emissions when compared to standard aluminum. The first of the resulting festive lighting products will be used in Vienna’s famous Graben chandeliers this festive season. The company pioneered a series of lighting products featuring a high percentage of organic material as early as 2012. Only the necessary packaging material, which is recyclable wherever possible, is used to pack the finished products. The result is lighting creations that are beautiful, sustainable, and mindfully packaged for distribution.

A Sustainable Supply Chain

It’s also important to consider a festive lighting supplier’s supply chain. All too often, suppliers may appear to meet sustainability standards, but hidden unethical or unsustainable practices can emerge that damage reputations. Companies that are members of amfori, such as MK Illumination, actively implement social standards and collaborate closely with suppliers and their own production facilities to prevent negative social and environmental practices.

It is also important to consider sustainability in the use phase. MK Illumination started offering 100% LED lighting solutions as early as 2008 and their new Premium ECO LED range saves an additional 50% on standard LED energy consumption. All products undergo rigorous quality checks following the BUY SMART model. That translates to reduced energy usage and emissions during use while maintaining luminosity, resulting in long-lasting, durable products.

Beyond the Festive Season

The company excels at creating modular pieces that enable shopping centers and retail spaces to expand and adapt their festive staging for various events, from Christmas to Halloween to seasonal center marketing activities. An initial investment with modular additions for individual events can lead to a sustainable approach to festive lighting and event marketing, substantial cost-savings in the long term, and ongoing place-making opportunities for retail spaces. The ability to envision solutions where products and ideas can be reused, enhanced, and reimagined for multiple years demands a deep understanding of crafting enduring, sustainable festive lighting solutions, which is one of MK Illumination’s core competencies.

Sustainability Compliance across the Business

Emission reduction is a vital aspect of sustainable festive lighting, especially in the context of addressing climate change. However, sustainable business practices encompass more than just products. Shopping centers, malls, and retail outlets committed to sustainability should also seek to have a clear understanding of a supplier’s overall CSR performance. While perfection is not the goal, it is important to assess a supplier’s past efforts and ongoing commitment to sustainability, future plans, and mechanisms for accountability, recognizing that sustainability is an ongoing journey for both businesses and society. As a business with nearly three decades of experience, MK Illumination is strongly committed to sustainability across the organization.

Operating in over 120 countries globally, the company is mindful of the need for sustainable growth to benefit current and future generations. It actively contributes to regional vitality by creating secure jobs and complying with local regulations, avoiding unethical tax practices to support sustainable development at home and abroad. MK Illumination takes environmental impact seriously, and it introduced the industry’s first LIGHT CODE to combat light pollution. Its ongoing investment in green energy includes the rollout of new solar voltaic installations worldwide, which began in 2023. People are important to the company: It prioritizes employee satisfaction and well-being, extending its concern to supply chain workers through regular dialogues with suppliers and membership in amfori. For center managers dedicated to sustainable atmospheric lighting and decoration, a potential festive lighting supplier must exhibit a broader commitment to actively contributing to a sustainable future through their everyday practices, sustainability principles, and supply chain management. That not only aligns with a center’s sustainability vision but also safeguards it against unforeseen reputational risks in the future.

Experience and Innovation

The retail real estate sector has made significant strides when it comes to embracing sustainability, but it’s an ongoing journey. In order to continue this journey and challenge themselves to become ever-more sustainable, retail spaces need trusted partners that can help them do this through festive lighting, decoration, and creative place-making. Considering sustainability from multiple perspectives can be a useful starting point for center managers seeking festive lighting suppliers with sustainable credentials. Fortunately, some suppliers are leading the way. As a pioneer in sustainable solutions, MK Illumination possesses extensive knowledge of the retail real estate sector, festive lighting, and decades of insight, making it a valuable partner for festive lighting and atmospheric lighting solutions of all sizes. It is ready to help centers, malls, and retail spaces create more sustainable festive experiences in 2023 – and beyond.

Thomas Mark

Thomas Mark is the President of MK Illumination.