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Toy Industry Not Doing Enough For Sustainability

A whitepaper published by sustainability consultant Sonia Sanchez says most toy companies are doing little or nothing to prevent ecological harm from the products they produce.Despite a massive upswell in consumer awareness of the need for sustainable products, the report Changing the World Toy by Toy says 81 per cent of producers are doing little or nothing to improve product sustainability.

The whitepaper found that while 93 per cent of toy companies interviewed recognize that managing their impact was ‘very important’ or ‘vital’ for their success, only 13 per cent displayed a “comprehensive sustainability strategy.”

A good example of the latter would be companies like Mattel, Hasbro and Spin Master, all of which have launched comprehensive sustainability programs. Mattel, for example, launched the Play Back program, which allows customers to return toys to the company, where they will be fully recycled.

Mattel Goes Green With Toy Recycling Program

Sanchez also says six per cent of companies interviewed said they have made a “solid commitment, but lack transparency” on their sustainability policies.

The vast majority, comprising 81 per cent of toy companies, “show zero or only anecdotal commitment towards to the cause,” Sanchez writes. 

Sanchez based her report on the analysis of around 120 toy brands and their public sustainability reports, as well as toy industry media, surveys of 15 companies, and a series of expert interviews.

“Toys play a crucial role in children’s lives; they stimulate and prolong playing, essential for healthy physical and intellectual development,” Sanchez says, explaining why she wrote the free report. “However, there is a more worrying side to toys; they undeniably harm the environment and can affect children negatively.

“Among many other effects, the toy industry contributes to depleting natural resources, polluting land, air and water; fuels climate change, and fosters the conditions leading to human and labour rights ‘abuses,” Sanchez adds. “Toys can also damage children’s health, well-being, self-esteem and ambitions. Paradoxically, the very same items that bring joy to children jeopardise their future.”

Sanchez says many companies are challenged by the lack of a solid sustainability strategy. Even when companies want to become more sustainable, she says, they are unsure how to achieve the goal while still remaining profitable.

That challenge is magnified by the fact many manufacturers are Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) that lack the resources of larger companies, and the fact some 90 per cent of toys are made from plastics that don’t decompose.

That said, Sanchez says she sees hope in the data, particularly from the interviews indicating the vast majority of toy companies want to become sustainable, but are not yet sure how to achieve that goal.

The full whitepaper, Changing the World Toy by Toy by Sonia Sanchez can be downloaded here for free.

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