The nonprofit organization WindMade has just launched its new WindMade Product Label for consumers, and it provides a clear illustration of how forward-thinking companies are partnering with the alternative energy sector to give themselves an edge in the competitive global market. WindMade was founded under the leadership of the major wind turbine manufacturer Vestas and a select group of partners in order to help companies and consumers support wind power through their economic choices, with the Danish toy company LEGO standing out as the only manufacturing company in the group.
The new label is designed to help consumers easily identify products of all types that are made with wind energy, and to provide greater transparency about corporate investment in wind and other forms of alternative energy. LEGO has certainly given itself a running start on the competition. Last year LEGO’s parent company KIRKBI A/S announced plans to invest in a 77-turbine wind farm off the coast of Germany, which is due for completion in 2015.
Wind power and a corporate vision
Over and above the focus on renewable energy, the LEGO sustainability vision has deep roots in the company’s history, as reflected in its iconic product. When LEGO announced its wind power investment, the CEO of LEGO Group, Jørgen Vig Knudstorp, had this to say:
“One of our fundamental values is to enable future generations of children to grow up in a better world. We do that first and foremost through our play materials – but also by improving the safety of our employees, improving the energy efficiency of our production, and reducing the volume of waste.”
When LEGO joined in the creation of WindMade, it created a direct identification between its vision and the nuts-and-bolts of translating its vision into reality, as represented by Vestas Wind Systems. On its part, Vestas has been front and center in the wind power promotion movement. In addition to founding and sponsoring WindMade, last year the company produced a study demonstrating the powerful impact of wind power on consumer choice.
Other members of the founding group are the United Nations Global Compact, WWF, Global Wind Energy Council, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), and Bloomberg L.P. PwC, by the way, is perhaps best known for its 2010 study showing that Europe could wean itself completely off fossil fuels by 2050.
The new WindMade wind power label
The new Product Label completes a three-part project that began in 2011 with the Company Label and the Event Label. The WindMade Company Label provides a promotional platform for businesses and organizations to educate consumers about their use of wind power and other forms of alternative energy. The Event Label was formulated in response to the demand by conferences and other gatherings to certify their use of 100 percent renewable energy.
The Product Label casts a wide net, partly due to the reality that wind power is still in early growth and not yet universally accessible. To qualify for the WindMade Product Label, a company’s products (or services) must use at least 75 percent renewable energy in their overall electricity footprint, and wind power must have the largest proportion of that.
The Product Label also covers not only the energy used directly to manufacture a product but also the lifecycle leading up to manufacturing, beginning with the harvesting of raw materials. That reflects a growing understanding on the part of consumers that lifecycle impacts are inseparable from factory-related impacts.
According to Susanne Fratzscher of WWF, who is on WindMade’s Technical Committee, the “cradle-to-gate approach ensures that the label is meaningful, and it makes it robust and credible to consumers.”
The Product Label does not specifically address lifecycle impacts related to energy used in recycling, reclaiming or disposing, but that seems like a logical next step.
[Image: LEGO wind turbines by Kentfield]