Lego unveils $400m investment to drive low-carbon transition and single-use plastic phase-out

Toymaker Lego Group has unveiled a swathe of new sustainability commitments around plastics, waste, emissions and the circular economy, backed up with a $400m (£310m) investment package.

Pictured: The paper alternatives to single-use plastic bags for bricks. Image: Lego Group

Pictured: The paper alternatives to single-use plastic bags for bricks. Image: Lego Group

The package was unveiled today (15 September) and will be spent on things like new manufacturing equipment, materials-related R&D and expanding brick reuse programmes and education schemes over a three-year period.

By 2021, Lego said in a statement, paper-based alternatives to the single-use plastic bags used to house bricks inside their main box will be trialled at scale. Smaller trials of a variety of different paper-based formats revealed one design in particular that children found easiest to open. Paper used to make the bags will be procured from sustainably certified sources.

The switch, which forms part of the toymaker’s 2025 commitment to use “100% sustainable materials” in packaging, will prove “complicated”, vice president for environmental responsibility Tim Brooks told edie.

“We need to introduce new machines to make the new packs and we make millions of boxes a day across five factories around the world,” he explained.

“We are phasing  in the bags over five years so we can learn more about which design of bag provides the best play experience while phasing in new equipment across our manufacturing so we can continue to bring get Lego play to children around the world.”

Aside from packaging, Lego has pledged to make 100% of its products from sustainable materials by 2030, transitioning away from virgin fossil-based materials. A proportion of the funding will be used to scale up bioplastics, which currently account for 2% of Lego’s portfolio of bricks, as well as recycled materials.

Further proportions of the funding package will be spent to achieve zero-waste-to-landfill status by 2025 and to scale up initiatives designed to keep Lego products in use. The firm’s brick donation scheme, Lego Replay, will be rolled out in Canada in the coming months and in one other country by the end of 2022, Brooks revealed. A successful pilot in the US saw more than 23,000 children receive donated Lego toys.

These announcements come shortly after Lego joined the Ellen Macarthur Foundation.

Carbon and classrooms

Aside from materials and waste, Lego has made new commitments around decarbonisation and educating and empowering children.

On the former, the Group has vowed to ensure that manufacturing operations are certified as carbon-neutral by 2022. It will increase its renewable energy sourcing through a mix of tariffs, power purchase agreements (PPAs) and onsite solar installations to meet this goal. New, more energy-efficient cooling technology will also be installed.

Brooks told edie that the company does expect to use some carbon credits to reach this goal, but only as a “last option”. It will work with WWF to ensure the offsetting projects it backs are credible and create additionality.

On the education piece, Lego funnels 25% of its profits into its charitable foundation and is aiming to reach eight million children across 27 nations annually through this channel by 2022. Partners of the foundation include UNICEF and Save the Children. While the foundation has sought to improve problem-solving skills and collaboration skills since its inception, its projects will place more of a focus on environmental sustainability education going forward.

Sarah George



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