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Exclusive: How the ICTI Ethical Toy Program provides supply chain stability in unstable times

Published on: 26th August 2021

Sarah Ng, the organisation’s communications manager, tells Toy World readers how the non-profit organisation’s initiatives are helping members. 

We’re all well aware of the challenges facing the toy industry right now; Covid is still very much an issue, and other factors like crazy shipping costs, raw material availability and labour shortages mean that many in the industry are concerned that their products will not be on the shelves by the Q4 peak selling period. At a time when consumer demand is high, IETP is working hard to ensure poor labour standards do not add to toy companies’ and retailers’ concerns.

The ICTI Ethical Toy Program (IETP)’s Remediation Program has been a great success. An impressive 100% of suppliers who completed the programme effectively rectified all non-compliances and achieved IETP certification once again after serious issues were found. This means companies meet retailers’ requirements and product gets to shelf without delay.

Almost one year ago, IETP launched a new support programme for supplier factories. This programme offers bespoke support to factories experiencing significant challenges in maintaining compliance to the standards required – and failure to maintain compliance will result in product being refused by retailers. The Remediation Programme, which combines unannounced supplier audits and pre-scheduled on-site engagement activities, was developed with the support of the global retailer community. IETP is accepted by 98% of global retailers and is the programme of choice for the toy and play industry.

Supplier audits are only one part of a holistic supply chain monitoring programme. IETP leverages the expertise of its local team to empower suppliers by providing effective technical support. This local team support is even more valuable now, as many buyers have been unable to visit their suppliers for nearly two years. IETP is the industry’s trusted partner on the ground.

IETP’s Remediation Program aims to enable suppliers with serious non-compliances to identify their root cause, implement behavioural or process changes, and permanently resolve issues. As a result, this programme is trusted by retailers; a supplier who participates is demonstrating their commitment to meeting the standards required and this means products can continue to be shipped and placed on-shelf.

Engaging the decision-makers

The On-Site Engagement (OE) visit is a core element of the Remediation Program, requiring the business owner and/or senior executives to get involved in meetings and discussions, demonstrating their commitment to improving their social performance. During the On-Site Engagement, IETP specialists conduct bespoke root cause analysis with participants, providing advice tailored to their needs, sharing knowledge and experiences, building trust and ensuring transparency throughout the process.

The On-Site Engagement meetings are an effective tool. They assist decision-makers to uncover the challenges their teams face and help them identify the barriers preventing them from meeting the IETP standard. The process also encourages decision-makers to rethink their current operations and review the effectiveness of their internal collaborative efforts.

Facilitating an open and constructive dialogue

Participating suppliers regard the Remediation Program’s pre-scheduled On-site Engagement element as a most valuable and beneficial experience.

One factory manager stated: “We have gained the confidence to be open about our operational obstacles with IETP – this is much more beneficial than worrying about non-compliances being discovered. After we did the On-Site Engagement, we understood that transparency is integral to the Ethical Toy Program Certification, and that the IETP team was encouraging us to identify the fundamental issues causing non-compliances by offering us tailored guidance, to help prevent these non-compliances from recurring in the future. We assumed the root cause of our violations to IETP’s weekly working hours limit was due to worker shortages. However, the IETP team helped us understand that the non-compliance was caused by poor production planning.”

The Program’s feedback proves that constructive conversation carried out in an open manner builds trust and transparency. Suppliers are more comfortable and proactive in discussing non-compliances when the purpose of sharing is to seek solutions that resolve their existing challenges.

Creating a relevant and replicable experience

Prior to the On-Site Engagement, IETP specialists evaluate the certification history of the supplier, highlight repeat non-compliances, and prepare relevant materials to share with the factory to help management both understand and resolve them, permanently. For example, if the repeat non-compliance issue is found to be related to transparency, the team would work with participants to establish whether this was caused by a lack of understanding of IETP’s requirements, or by other contributing factors.

To establish this, IETP specialists use a ‘fishbone diagram’, a specific tool, to visualise and brainstorm the potential causes of the problem, encouraging owners and managers to think beyond compliance matters such as customers’ requirements, economic considerations, and the supply of raw materials. This step-by-step insight-driven approach builds capability and helps develop the skills and processes that factory management can replicate in the future to identify and tackle other operational issues.

Consumers expect the retailers and brands they buy from to be serious about their responsibilities – and at IETP, we are reassuringly serious about our work.

The ICTI Ethical Toy Program (IETP) is a specialist responsible sourcing programme designed by the Toy, Children, Entertainment & Publishing industry, for the industry, to reflect the unique manufacturing environment. The Remediation Program is one of the services IETP offers that ensures suppliers are supported to effectuate the required social responsibility improvements in a given timeframe.

To find out more, or to join the most recognised standard in the industry, click here.

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