Carmel Giblin, CEO and president of the Ethical Toy Program, spoke to Toy World about the latest Global Trends Report, and what the future holds for toy manufacturing.
“The Global Trends report gathers all the information collected from the thousands of audits and factory assessments we do. Its purpose is to help our members better understand the opportunities and challenges that the toy industry faces. The programme works with 1,200 factories covering 12 countries, and as we move into 2020 the number of factories will increase along with the number of countries where we operate.
This year we’ve conducted over 2,000 audits, mostly in mainland China but also in India, Indonesia and Vietnam. We have hundreds of audit points on our checklist, including working hours, wages, safety and zero tolerance issues like child labour, which enables us to assess a factory’s compliance with our standards, which are agreed upon by the toy industry. Our standard evolves and develops as conditions improve and as new risks emerge, so the data we collect allows us to focus on the right areas.
Our work seeks to prevent the most egregious issues such as child and slave labour. It’s difficult to identify issues like forced labour and people trafficking, which are often criminal in nature. That’s why we are in the factory, talking to workers directly. Our checks cover things like whether workers have their passports with them, if they had to pay fees to secure their job, if they’re paying for their accommodation, and, if so, are the fees being charged excessive. We also require workers to receive their wages directly. This prevents the agent taking a cut before paying the worker.
The Ethical Toy Program Worker Helpline runs alongside our auditing process, and has received around 18,000 calls since it was launched. The helpline lets us cluster issues into groups and allows us to act quickly if we’re getting a lot of calls about a specific issue at a specific factory. Additionally, it gives an idea of how we can have a more positive impact for workers.
From our side of things, the Ethical Toy Program will continue to move away from an audit only focused approach. Over the past 15 years we’ve worked with hundreds of companies and thousands of factories, and millions have been spent on compliance to drive standards, but now we need to build on those foundations to focus more on impact rather than just data collection. The toy industry is innovative and resilient, and has an exciting future, but it needs to adapt and evolve to meet changing consumer expectations and operating environments. We are here to help our members to succeed.
Read the full interview with Carmel in the Toy World December issue here.