eWorld Preview – Emma Freiha Is Helping Lego Build a Sustainable Future

It is only two weeks now to the eWorld event on October 3rd at the QE2 Centre, Westminster. It combines a range of keynote, workshop and smaller group sessions, some from sponsoring solution providers and others from practitioners and industry experts, with an exhibition where you can meet probably half of the major players in procurement technology. And it is free to practitioners – choose which sessions you attend carefully and you can have a really educational and interesting day at no cost.

Anyway, we noticed one of the speakers is Emma Freiha of Lego. (Her session is titled “Building Capacity for Global Growth”). Having loved Lego and Legoland for many years, I thought we would find out ahead of time what she is going to talk about. That led to a fascinating half an hour on the phone with Freiha, who I had failed to research in advance as she has no social media profile at all! That is deliberate, she says, if a little unusual for someone who works in “innovation”. But she was very happy to tell me a little about herself and her topic for eWorld.

She is an engineer by background, worked in Shell for some years after university, and was headhunted two years ago to work as an “innovation strategist” for Lego. Interestingly, that sits in the procurement function, because “we realised we can’t do all the innovation ourselves, we need the market to support the effort”.  She is London based - although Lego is famously Danish in origin and the HQ is there, Lego has grown its team in the capital to around 300 people in recent years.

Although procurement at Lego is a relatively young function, it has been embraced rapidly and grown significantly. It started mainly in the indirect area, but has expanded, and Freiha is working on the core products  – the materials used to make the famous Lego bricks and related products.

LEGO Group has made a commitment to use sustainable materials in core products and packaging by 2030. So Freiha’s task is to look for those materials – that could mean bio-based, or more recycled / recyclable materials. And as she says “we are not a chemicals or materials business – we can’t do this ourselves”.  Equally, Lego has very particular requirements, so solutions are always likely to be bespoke, rather than off the shelf. That means working closely with potential suppliers, and in some cases creating whole new markets.

Lego is also heavily into the digital agenda, with its own games, apps and so on – a whole digital platform really – which again has needed considerable input from third-party suppliers. Again, the procurement team is heavily involved with driving innovation in these areas.

Freiha also made the point that being a sourcing innovation champion is not just about working with suppliers – “you need to consider how to prepare the internal organisation for change”. A development such as new suppliers or materials has quite an impact on manufacturing and indeed other parts of the business as well; that has to be handled carefully. Those aspects of her work are perhaps more transferable to her audience at eWorld than any materials science-related aspects; and should make it a useful session for delegates as well as the fascinating Lego-related general interest aspect.

So thanks to Freiha for her time, and I’m certainly going to make sure I get to her session on the day. You can read more about what Lego are doing in terms of sustainability generally on their website – start here. And you can book for eWorld here.

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