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Tina Casey headshot

With Eye on Asia Market, LEGO Plans Huge Carbon Emissions Reduction

LEGO Group is gazing into a future of strong sales growth worldwide, especially in Asia, but that doesn't necessarily mean a consequent growth in its greenhouse gas emissions. The iconic toy company has just announced a new partnership with the World Wildlife Foundation Climate Savers initiative for businesses. The new agreement goes beyond LEGO's in-house operations to embrace a comprehensive partnership all along its supply chain.

That's an important development because according to LEGO, only about 10 percent of its greenhouse gas emissions are related directly to manufacturing products within the factory walls. The other 90 percent comes from the supply and distribution chains, as well as end-of-life impacts. With that in mind, let's take a look at some of the main goals of the plan.

LEGO's plan for supply chain emissions

LEGO's Climate Savers pledge includes a mix of defined deadlines and open-ended aspirations, so it's tough to predict how significant the reductions will be in the near term. However, given the company's recent progress in reducing its in-house emissions, the prospects look good for a dramatic impact sooner rather than later.

The pledge covers four basic areas.

First, starting next year, LEGO will partner with suppliers to develop pilot programs for reducing their operational carbon emissions.

Second, LEGO will "work with" (there's that open-ended aspiration) a strategy for reducing materials-related emissions, which would also have a positive impact on supply chain emissions. That could mean, for example, developing new products that use fewer materials, and incorporating more reclaimed or recycled/recyclable materials.

Third, LEGO will "look into" (another aspiration) product innovations that produce a more sustainable outcome. We're wondering -- just wondering -- if that could involve home or in-store 3D printing stations as a pathway for reducing emissions related to packing, shipping and handling.

Fourth, the company pledges to reduce the energy required to manufacture LEGO elements by ten percent per tonne, using 2012 as a baseline year.

More LEGO, less carbon emissions

The new partnership with WWF is well timed for LEGO, which recently announced its ambitions for growing the market for LEGO products in Asia, where the new Legends of Chima products have been performing well compared to the company average.

Of particular interest to TriplePundit is the Legends of Chima storyline, which dovetails with LEGO's environmental mission viewed through a fantasy world of resource conservation, political strife and domestic conflict.

The whole storyline is worth a read (here's the link), but here are a few key excerpts:

Once a pristine, natural paradise, CHIMA has become a battleground for eight animal tribes...The animals fight for control of a natural resource called CHI, a powerful element that is both a source of life and potential destruction...

Animals throughout the land relied on the magical CHI orbs to energize their vehicles, gear, and themselves. The orbs were a power source that the Lions had always shared equally with everyone.

Eventually, some of the animals got greedy. A young, rogue Crocodile prince named Cragger demanded that his tribe should receive a greater share of the powerful CHI orbs...

The Lions only wanted to be fair, and to protect all of CHIMA. But the Crocodiles didn’t see it this way. A series of minor skirmishes over the Crocodiles’ share of the CHI led to bigger battles...

Sounds familiar, right?

It's also worth noting that although LEGO's new "Friends" line aimed at girls got the stinkeye from some quarters for its over-the-top girliness, those products are also doing better than the company average.

In other words, between tapping into new global markets and broadening its appeal across genders while managing its carbon emissions, LEGO has its work cut out for it.

On the plus side, LEGO has put itself in a good position to provide a role model for its supply chain.

In the first half of 2013 alone, the company accomplished a 9.1 percent increase in energy efficiency at its production facilities. In the same period, it achieved a 90 percent in-house recycling rate, a slight improvement over its 88 percent rate for all of 2012.

LEGO is also on track to produce more renewable energy than it uses, particularly through wind power. The company was the first major manufacturer to kickstart the new WindMade product label, following on the heels of its $532 million investment in a new wind farm built by DONG Energy.

[Image: Earth globe by dirkb86]

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Tina Casey headshotTina Casey

Tina writes frequently for TriplePundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, clean tech research and emerging energy technologies. She is a former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes. She is currently Deputy Director of Public Information for the County of Union, New Jersey. Views expressed here are her own and do not necessarily reflect agency policy.

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