ICTI Ethical Toy Program Endorses Latest Regulations

by MARK ROBERTSON, senior vice president, communications, and stakeholder engagement, ICTI Ethical Toy Program

Now is the time to embrace manufacturing against a backdrop of new regulations, evolving consumer expectations, and global sustainability initiatives. ICTI Ethical Toy Program was at the forefront of ethical manufacturing last year.

Last year’s highlights include the launch of refreshed Ethical Toy Program branding, which reflects our role as the leading responsible sourcing program for the global toy industry. We also introduced major program upgrades, including a new, risk-rated audit checklist, updated ethical toy factory certification, and increased support for toy factories.

LEGO was among the many toy companies that joined our new buyer membership program last year. The program offers advanced tools and support to help brands and retailers source toys responsibly. Our worker well-being programs, which are now in their fourth year of operation, reunited thousands of domestic migrant parent workers with their children who were left behind in China and advanced women’s empowerment at toy factories in India last year.

Last year brought new legislation, regulation, and initiatives focused on ethical sourcing issue areas worldwide. Examples included France’s devoir de vigilance (corporate duty of vigilance), along with soon-to-be-enacted anti-slavery laws in Australia and Hong Kong. Alongside established legislation in the UK and the U.S., the new laws require toy companies to illustrate what they have done to combat slavery within their supply chains. Meanwhile, global sustainability initiatives, such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the U.N. Guiding Principles (UNGPs) on Business and Human Rights, further oblige toy companies to consider wider risks in their supply chains.

Looking Ahead

This year will bring further legislative requirements on modern-day slavery, with a focus on responsible recruitment practices at factories in supply chains. Ethical Toy Program Certification prohibits all forms of forced labor. The good news for the toy industry is that membership to the Ethical Toy Program shows conformity with modern slavery legislation.

The UNGPs are quickly emerging as the benchmark against which companies’ efforts to address human rights risks are judged. They will require companies to conduct due diligence to map human rights risks in their supply chains, protect and respect the rights of workers, and remedy any negative human rights impacts. The UNGPs are voluntary for businesses, but the German government, among others, is considering legislation to ensure compliance with the UNGPs should voluntary efforts prove ineffective.

A total of 170 countries and territories adopted the SDGs, which are a blueprint to build a sustainable future. This year, the SDGs will continue to drive governments and businesses to address many sustainability issues. The SDGs also allow toy companies to embrace positive changes that deliver business benefits in their supply chains. Experience shows that investing in worker well-being at toy factories can boost efficiency, reduce costs, and increase recruitment and retention.

Our common goals at the Ethical Toy Program are to support our toy brand and retailer members in managing supply chain risks, complying with regulatory requirements on sustainability issues, and realizing the business benefits of ethical manufacturing. We encourage toy brands and retailers to join the program and embrace responsible sourcing. This will ensure that they manufacture toys in a way that is consistent with industry values.

Mark Robertson joined ICTI Ethical Toy Program in August 2015. He leads the development of IETP’s worker well-being, stakeholder engagement, and global communications. Robertson works with IETP’s members to support responsible sourcing strategies and to drive collaboration across the industry.

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2019 issue of the Toy Book.