Thirty thousand children of factory workers will benefit as LEGO and Spin Master announced new funding to expand the Ethical Toy Program across China, Vietnam and Mexico.
The Ethical Toy Program is a program by the International Council of Toy Industries, which is the convening organization for the worldwide toy industry.
ICTI and its member trade associations are committed to championing the value of play; supporting the rights and well-being of factory workers; promoting responsible toy safety standards; reducing barriers to trade; and advancing social responsibility. The Ethical Toy Program, known as the IETP, is among the organization’s key programs, and has been operational in China since 2016.
“I am incredibly proud of what we have achieved so far and excited for the future of the Family-Friendly Factory program,” said IETP CEO Carmel Giblin. “The mission of the Ethical Toy Program is to help improve the lives of workers, their children and their communities. We are achieving this through a ground-breaking commitment to worker well-being, by developing a supportive working environment that will benefit working parents and carers, both personally and professionally.”
“We are delighted to have the support of the LEGO Group and Spin Master. The financial support and expertise they bring will be invaluable and we would like to invite more brands to join us in helping us to achieve this mission.”
The original idea was to help support China’s “left behind children,” who are often left to fend for themselves as their parents sometimes have to migrate to different cities to secure work, and may be unable to bring their children with them. It’s a massive problem for families in emerging markets, and in China alone it’s estimated there are 31 million left behind children.
IETP is working to create what it calls Family Friendly Spaces, which essentially allows workers to bring their children with them as they migrate for work, and may live, for example, in company housing.
The Family-Friendly Spaces initiative creates factory-based, safe, educational spaces for the children of workers to play and learn while their parents are able to work. IETP has now successfully operationalised this program in China for seven years.
A Family-Friendly Factory is defined as a factory that has considered the needs of its workers and engaged with them to fill those needs. This might include the provision of childcare, or the development of policies like flexible working hours or enhanced parental leave. It can also take the form of training and support for parents, helping them to develop new skills.
The program has been successful and sustainable, IETP says, as 66% of factories continued their Family Friendly Spaces after the first year of implementation. Even more impressive, that happened even during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019-2021.
That’s likely because factories see that the program is mutually beneficial. Data from IETP shows that, due to the provision of a Family-Friendly Space, 91% of workers intended to stay working at a factory for over two years; 90% of managers said more workers were attracted to work at their factory; and 90% of managers also said Family-Friendly Spaces improved worker retention rates.
The not-for-profit organization has now expanded its ambitions, intending to scale up and support 30,000 children by the end of 2025, by creating 100 new Family-Friendly Spaces and formally recognizing factories who participate in the FFF program.
That’s where the new funding from LEGO and Spin Master comes in, as the two companies have donated funds to expand this pilot program further across China, but also in Vietnam and Mexico by the end of 2025. It’s expected the program will expand to Vietnam this year, and to Mexico in 2024.
Tammy Smitham, Spin Master’s VP Communications and Corporate Citizenship, says the company has been inspired by the success of the program to date, and is excited to take part in its expansion.
“IETP’s Family-Friendly Factory program will provide valuable programming to improve the lives of workers with family responsibilities, which in turn can have a positive impact on their children and their work life,” Smitham said. “Much like the Family-Friendly Spaces program, it is a win-win for both factory workers and management, strengthening the factory culture and engagement.
“Given our commitment to helping children grow and learn through play, we are thrilled to be supporting the expansion of this program which is at the epicenter of where play experiences begin and look forward to seeing the positive impact it can have,” she added.
The LEGO Group has been involved since the beginning and has provided the most funds, resulting in it being named the program’s primary funding partner.
“We are extremely excited to support the globalization of the Family-Friendly Factory program and work with IETP and expert partners on program content development,” said Anne-Mette Lehm Laursen, Senior Director of Responsible Sourcing at the LEGO Group. “Learning through play is an essential part of child development, enhancing social, physical, emotional, creative, and cognitive skills. We look forward to embedding our Learning through Play activities into the Family-Friendly Spaces Teacher Training program, and seeing the positive impact that the program will have on children, parents, caregivers, and worker well-being.”
IETP is inviting organizations and brands of any size and from any sector to join its growing program, by coming on board as a funding or knowledge partner, “to collectively make a life-changing difference to children and families around the world.”
For more information on the program, interested companies can contact Anita Lo, General Manager, at: email@example.com or visit www.ethicaltoyprogram.org.