Exclusive – The Ethical Toy Program on the impact of Covid-19 in China

Published on: 18th March 2020

Carmel Giblin, CEO & president of the ICTI Ethical Toy Program, answers our questions about the current pandemic. 

Carmel Giblin.

Toy World is aware of toy factories in China that are switching to the production of medical supplies – is this a government initiative, or a diversification step the factory managers are taking themselves?

We’re aware that a limited number of factories, which are members of IETP, are now producing medical supplies, specifically face masks, temperature readers and goggles. Some are doing this to respond to the clear need in the market and some are working in conjunction with the government. This sort of diversification is not unprecedented amongst manufacturers, and I hope it will help us all globally to address the significant health threat of Covid-19.

What impact is the current Covid-19 situation, as it stands, having on toy manufacture in China?

Covid-19 is unprecedented, certainly in my working career, in terms of the global negative impact it will have on all sectors and industries. In China, we know most factories are now back to work following the extended Chinese New Year national annual holiday. Our members are reporting on average circa 70% of the workforce being present. They have circa 4-5 weeks of backlogged production to address, which is resulting in pressure on them to meet shipping deadlines with reduced worker numbers. Factories aim to be back to full workforce capacity in the coming weeks. Until then, we can expect pressure on working hours which we must all manage responsibly.  Workers who have returned to work understandably have concerns regarding this decision. The fear of future contagion is real too; we’re working with our members to ensure factories are doing all they can to address fears and keep their workers healthy. We can, I think, be hopeful in terms of the continued reduction of cases being reported in China. I very much hope that continues to be the situation.

There seems to be a feeling that, just as China is getting back to full manufacturing capability, the rest of the world is closing shops and demand may not be there at the moment. Is this a fair assessment? Are things getting back to normal, or is there a lingering aftermath?

We now are facing global lockdowns, which are both frightening for people and simultaneously the responsible thing to do. Of course, lockdowns impact the retail market – for some companies this pandemic will be a catastrophic event that they cannot survive. The uncertainty, in terms of how long we will all need to take such extreme actions in order to fight Covid-19 successfully, is very difficult for people and businesses to deal with. It’s hard to plan and respond when we simply don’t know what will happen next. The situation is very fluid right now. I hope that support is given to business and individuals to support society during this extreme situation. I’d also encourage all parts of the supply chain to be in dialogue so challenges can be understood and positively managed.

How is the Ethical Toy Program assisting its members at the moment?

Supporting the workers in factories, our members and the entire toy industry is what we are here to do. The work we do is even more critical at this time. We’ve been in constant contact with our factory members and buyer members. The first action we took was to provide advice and guidance to factories, helping them get back to full operational status as quickly as they could, whist ensuring workers were protected. We are granting extensions to factory certification validity period and reminding factories to use our Self Declaration process when they need to. This provides the factory with the ability to manage non-compliances to the IETP standard without risk to their certification in times of need.

If anyone wishes to know more about how the Ethical Toy Program is supporting factories, or for other information about any part of our industry, please contact Carmel at


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