From toys to turbines: Lego branches out into wind energy | Environment | All topics from climate change to conservation | DW | 09.10.2015

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From toys to turbines: Lego branches out into wind energy

Danish toy manufacturer Lego has inaugurated a wind farm off the coast of Germany. In an interview with DW, Lego's CEO talks about the company's efforts to run off 100 percent renewable energy - and otherwise go green.

On Friday (09.10.2015), the Lego Group - together with two partners - inaugurated an offshore wind farm in the North Sea 54 kilometers (33.5 miles) from the German coast. By 2020, Lego aims at balancing out the energy it uses to manufacture its toys with an equivalent amount of renewable energy.

The Danish company prides itself on its green credentials, and continues to search for sustainable alternatives to oil-based raw materials for producing the bricks. In 2014, Lego announced that it would not renew its contract with the oil company Shell, following a campaign by environmental organization Greenpeace.

Deutsche Welle spoke with Lego's CEO Jorgen Vig Knudstorp about efforts to make Lego an eco-friendly company.

Deutsche Welle: Lego is widely known for producing toy bricks. Why did you decide to invest in renewable energy?

Jørgen Vig Knudstorp

Lego's CEO Jørgen Vig Knudstorp

Jorgen Vig Knudstorp: About five years ago, we started to think about our future and one of the aims we wanted to put into what we call our "planet promise," toward social and environmental responsibility. We wanted to make the company based on renewable energy - so we started the journey of exploring how we can do this best.

We found that this idea of investing in renewable energy capacity that balances with our own energy consumption is the most effective way of contributing positively to the world and to climate. Therefore, we were very happy when we found this project and could enter into an agreement in 2012. The total wind farm will be supplying energy to the equivalent of about 320,000 German households. The share that we have invested in is about a third of it.

When you became the CEO of Lego in 2004, the company was in a difficult situation. For the past ten years, the company has been constantly growing. What role does sustainability play in this success story?

The central element is to provide playful learning experiences to children all over the world to develop their creativity and their ways of thinking. But also from the beginning, the company took responsibility for the local society that it was a part of, in terms of both social and also environmental responsibility. I think in today's world it seems like a very natural step for our owners and for the company to also be concerned with the impact on the climate and on the environment from driving a global business.

Besides investing in renewable energy, what other efforts is your company making to become more sustainable?

From the environmental perspective, we are undertaking a number of things. We have made sure that we are recycling a very high percentage of all waste - we are currently recycling more than 90 percent of all waste generated by our own manufacturing. We have also taken a bold step in reducing the size of our packaging. This has also reduced the space for transport.

Ausstellung LEGO Zeitreise

Lego has been fascinating generations of children - can it pull off a shift out of fossil fuels?

On all sides, we are working on implementing investments that will drive higher effectiveness and efficiency in the consumption of energy, whether it is in offices to have better heating and insulation, or in factories where we consume very large amounts of energy.

Are you planning to invest into more renewable energy projects? What are your plans for the years to come?

Our excitement today is of course coming from the fact that we can now inaugurate this huge wind farm here in Borkum Riffgrund. I am sure we will continue to explore further initiatives, but I cannot at this point announce any.

What do your customers think of your new strategy?

Many of our customers are retailers, for example US-based Walmart, which is one of the world's biggest retailers. They themselves have a strategy to base their company on 100 percent renewable energy.

I think many of our retailers are considering this to be a very important area, and they appreciate our proactive approach. And for sure, both the children and the parents who ultimately buy and play with Lego materials are generally very positive about the Lego Group taking active stands on these sorts of topics.

Jørgen Vig Knudstorp is the CEO of the Lego Group since 2004. He is the first non-family member to head Lego.

Interview: Hilke Fischer

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