Ahead of EFIB 2017, we spoke to Nelleke Van Der Puil, VP of Materials at LEGO Group about their R&D of sustainable materials for LEGO bricks, opportunities within bio-based production, how brands can increase consumer awareness for bio-based products and the importance of EFIB 2017 for brands.
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The LEGO Group is investing significantly in research and development to find new, sustainable materials to produce your bricks – what has been the main driver behind this work?
Children are our future and we have a responsibility to leave world in a good state for them to inherit. The LEGO Group aspires to have positive impact on the world around us. We believe our high-quality toys are having a positive impact, but as a company, we need to do more. We have invested in finding and implementing sustainable materials because it is the right thing to do – that’s it.
Your aim is that all LEGO core products are made from sustainable materials by 2030, how are you progressing towards this goal?
We have started by building the foundation: we created a robust governance structure, hired new talents and established the organisation. At the same time we scouted and tested many different potential candidate materials, and then moved to establish co-development programs with suppliers, and joined various consortia and alliances that fit well with our direction. We see the change towards sustainable materials as a journey, in which the ultimate solution will most likely come in steps and will become available as we progress.
What do you feel are the biggest opportunities and challenges to engage with bio-based production?
When you are looking for new and sustainable materials, it is natural to try and find alternatives, which are as close to the reference material as possible. Imagine instead that you found something very different and even better? We take an open-minded approach and do not rule out any path to meeting our goals. The biggest challenge is without a doubt meeting the LEGO Group’s exceptionally high safety and quality standards, which are non-negotiable.
What can brands do to increase consumer awareness about bio-based products and their benefits and what is the role of policy makers?
The consumer has only a few touch points with the supply chain: The retailer and the brand, which sometimes even coincide. That places brands in a unique position to communicate with consumers to understand their wishes and concerns on the one hand, and to take the lead in promoting bio-based materials on the other. The role of policy makers is it to provide good framework conditions and a predictable future in terms of legislation.
Why do you feel that attending EFIB 2017 is important for brands and other members of the value chain?
It is important for brands to be visible and drive demand through the supply chain. As a brand, we use the opportunity to give insights into how we view the challenge, what it is we are looking for, and to initiate contact with relevant parties in the value chain.