02.CHOICE toy survey
In conjunction with Amnesty International Australia, we surveyed toy companies on key CSR issues, asking questions about their toy production, safety standards and codes of conduct. Altogether we sent our survey to 61 toy companies that had an Australian contact listed on their toys. We had found the toys in nine major toy stores in Sydney.
We spotted another 160 toy brands that had only a brand name listed — no Australian contact details and sometimes not even on their website. So if something was wrong with one of these toys, you’d have problems finding someone to talk to.
Only 17 companies (28%) participated in our survey, most of whom (at least 12) import the bulk of their toys from China. We’d expected more — especially more of the market leaders — would have jumped at the chance to tell us about their efforts, if they were addressing CSR issues at all. The response rate to our survey was disappointing:
Some of the companies we surveyed showed genuine commitment to the issues and supplied information in support of their claims. For example:
- “Target wants to ensure that products we sell are made or delivered in good and safe working conditions, national laws are obeyed and that the basic human rights of workers are respected.”
- “If a factory is unwilling or unable to participate in the ICTI Care Process, Hasbro will not conduct business with this factory.”
- “All our chemical and physical specifications are available in our Product Safety Handbook, which is delivered to our partners and suppliers when purchasing a new product.” (Lego)
Major recalls, but no response
Some of the companies at the centre of the recent toy recalls didn’t bother to respond to our survey, including Mega Brands (Magnetix toys), RC2 (Thomas and Friends toys ) and Mattel (Fisher Price and Barbie toys).
Mattel the world’s foremost toy company, snubbed our many attempts to encourage it to return the survey. Responding could have built up its reputation in the eyes of Australian consumers, considering it has a code of conduct and is known for its strict quality controls. But then, NGOs have long criticised the company for its reluctance to reveal where its toys are made in China.
Toys’R’Us is questionable too …
The company told us it wasn’t corporate policy to reply to or fill in surveys and only sent a summary emphasising its commitment to toy safety and compliance with relevant standards, its monitoring systems and selection processes for suppliers. But it failed to answer our specific questions.
And then there were the rest …
Like the wholesaler who assured us: “No, we don’t get involved with the manufacturer’s management policy [or] working conditions ... We are a small family business.” This attitude seems to be at the crux of the whole issue of responsible supply chain management.
The toy industry is complex — included in our survey were manufacturers, distributors, importers, wholesalers, retailers and any combination of these. There seems to be very little recognition among many of them of any responsibility for suppliers’ operations, or of the potential to influence them.
Many companies showed little interest in the survey, saying they were too small a company, were too busy to fill it in, weren’t really part of the industry, or just didn’t respond despite our repeated calls.