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Mattel Honored With First Licensing Sustainability Award

The Society of Product Licensors Committed to Excellence and The Licensing Letter are pleased to announce that Mattel’s toy recycling program has won the first ever Licensing Sustainability Award.

The LSA is awarded quarterly to highlight programs in the licensing industry that reduce pollution, waste, and/or greenhouse gas emissions.

“The judges felt Mattel deserved this award not only due to the amount of materials that will be diverted from the waste stream, but also because the program serves as a roadmap for other companies in the sector,” said SPLiCE CEO Kimberly Kociencki.

Mattel’s Global Head of Sustainability, Pamela Gill-Alabaster, says the company’s long-term goal is to completely eliminate waste and pollution.

“Mattel envisions a waste-free future, where we reuse and keep the things we make in play forever,” she said. “By providing end-of-life solutions for our products, designing them to be durable or repairable, and by using more sustainable materials and production processes, we are helping to advance the circular economy.”

Mattel’s Play Back program allows consumers to send toys back to the company for recycling. Photo by Teri Weber.

One of the things that impressed the judges is that Mattel’s Drive Toward the Future and PlayBack programs involved the company taking responsibility for the products it sells, rather than putting the onus on consumers. Gill-Alabaster said that was a primary consideration in designing Mattel’s sustainability programs.

“We are very pleased with the early interest and consumer enthusiasm for Mattel’s PlayBack program,” she said. “Parents on social media have praised the PlayBack program and said they wish more companies had a take back initiative like it, which empower them to more responsibly dispose of their toys and other hard to recycle products.

“PlayBack is just one way that Mattel is contributing toward a circular economy,” she added. “The program allows us to capture the valuable materials used in our products and keep them in play, and out of landfill, and it gives parents a guilt-free way to responsibly dispose of outgrown toys.”

Mattel is among the largest licensing companies in the world, and its new programs initially affect all licensing deals for its entire Matchbox division. To announce the program, Mattel also entered into a licensing agreement, creating the first of its fully recyclable Matchbox vehicles in the form of a Tesla Roadster.

Sustainability consultant Sonia Sanchez, a member of the judging panel, says a key aspect of Mattel’s program is that it shifts the onus of recycling from the consumer back to the manufacturer.

“Among so many brand licensors making great strides in the industry, this particular initiative raises awareness within licensing on many levels,” said Kociencki. “It’s truly exciting to see the collaboration between leaders like Mattel and Tesla to implement sustainable measures in such a meaningful way.

“Additionally, calling upon non-profits that educate and implement sustainable measures globally is certain to bring a 360-degree approach in the future to further adoption within product innovation stages.”

Mattel’s recycling program was unrolled in three major steps over the past year.

First, Mattel partnered with the Forest Stewardship Council and the Rainforest Alliance in helping it create sustainable, paper-based packaging that is biodegradable and easily recyclable. By October of 2021, Mattel had already exceeded its goal of achieving and maintaining 95% recycled or FSC-certified content in the paper and wood fiber used in its products and packaging.

Secondly, in April this year Mattel launched the Drive Toward a Better Future program, unveiling a Matchbox Tesla Roadster, its first die-cast vehicle made from 99% recycled materials and certified CarbonNeutral. The Matchbox Tesla Roadster will be available starting in 2022.

The release is Mattel’s first step on a product roadmap intended to make all Matchbox die-cast cars, play sets and packaging with 100% recycled, recyclable or bio-based plastic by 2030. The roadmap is in line with Mattel’s goal to achieve 100% recycled, recyclable or bio-based plastic materials across all its products and packaging by 2030.

Thirdly, Mattel in May 2021 announced the launch of its Mattel PlayBack program.

PlayBack is a toy take back program that will enable families to extend the life of their Mattel toys once they are finished playing with them. The new program is designed to recover and reuse materials from old Mattel toys for future Mattel products and supports the company’s goal to achieve 100 per cent recycled, recyclable or bio-based plastic materials across all products and packaging by 2030.

Sanchez, a sustainability consultant based in London, England, says Mattel was chosen for the first Licensing Sustainability Award because its program best met the guidelines.

“This is a pioneering and highly relevant initiative in the toy industry because it tackles simultaneously the issues of waste and natural resource depletion and constitutes a bold step towards circularity”,  explained Sanchez, who specializes in the toy and child product industries. “Also, it educates families about saving the planet’s resources, while giving them the ability to recycle toys, which was almost impossible so far.”

The Licensing Sustainability Award was released this month to coincide with the release of the COP26 agreement on climate change among world leaders, said Symons.

““Despite the terrible impact of the pandemic, 2021 has also been the year when it was made clear to all that the worst crisis we face on Earth is runaway global warming,” Symons added. “All of us have been part of the problem, but all of us can be part of the solution, and I do believe there are solutions to this unprecedented global emergency.

“We hope, by recognizing companies like Mattel that are taking real measures toward sustainability, and telling their stories, that we can inspire others to launch their own environmental programs.”