Marina Paleja
Play with Purpose: A Glimpse into the Sustainable Toy Revolution
6 mins

Who else was blown away at the SiLC conference this month? I came away feeling positive and with a spring in my step after hearing about the latest sustainable progress in the industry. 

It was a day of thought-provoking discussions, spanning from the current and future legislative changes affecting retail and manufacturing, to the emergence of innovative systems within supply chains aimed at minimising environmental impact. 

In fact, it really got me thinking - about the realm of toys specifically - and just how we need to gear up for a sustainable revolution.

Earlier this year we revealed that UK kids' No. 1 concern for the future was the environment. The message is clearly reaching our children, but has it really sunk in amongst the adults? Sadly I think we still have a long way to go on that front. Calendar events such as ‘World Sustainability Day’,‘Plastic-Free July’ and even World Soil Day (coming up in December) remind us of our duty to care for our planet, but in my honest opinion, the toy industry continues to lag in its provision of sustainable options. Among life's simple joys, children's toys hold a special place, offering boundless imagination and growth, but as  environmental consciousness grows, so too will the demand (and expectations) for goods that have been manufactured in a responsible manner. In today's world, there's a growing awareness of the impact our choices make on the environment, and that's a concern close to my heart. 

Besides the joy a toy can bring, conventional toys, often made from plastic and non-renewable materials, come with a hefty environmental cost. The manufacturing of plastic toys consumes fossil fuels, and the disposal of these non-biodegradable items contributes to landfill waste and ocean pollution. Moreover, the production process often involves harmful chemicals and unethical labour practices.

The good news is that the tide is starting to turn. Companies such as Mattel, Hasbro, and Crayola, are starting to ramp up their efforts and take significant steps towards becoming more sustainable. 

Here’s a few examples of how some of these giants are redefining playtime with a conscience - and a reminder that we can all play a part in making choices that benefit our planet, regardless of whether we have children or not.

The Shifting Landscape: Big Toy Companies Going Green

Hasbro, the creative minds behind classics like Monopoly and Transformers, have pledged to phase out plastic packaging and reduce their environmental impact. They are actively working to reduce energy consumption by 25%, cut waste to landfills in half, and decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2025. 

Mattel, the force behind iconic brands like Barbie and Hot Wheels, has joined the sustainability bandwagon with a commitment to use 100% recycled, recyclable, or bio-based plastic materials in their products and packaging by 2030. With their new campaign ‘The Future of Pink is Green’ they have also introduced an eco-friendly line like the ‘Barbie Loves the Ocean’ collection made from 90% Recycled Ocean-Bound Plastic.

Crayola, known for its variety of colourful pencils , has made a significant investment in 100% solar power for its U.S. manufacturing facilities. This eco-friendly initiative is enough to produce over 3 billion crayons, 700 million markers, and 120 million jars of paint each year while using renewable energy exclusively. Crayola has also started to introduce eco-friendly products, such as crayons made from recycled plastic and markers with a reduced environmental impact.

These toy giants aren't just making playtime fun; they're making it sustainable!

It’s hugely positive to see that in the world of toys, sustainability isn't just a buzzword; it's becoming a promise. Big toy companies are investing in green innovation, and the result will be a win-win - for everyone! Being a KI sustainability ambassador, I have to say that I am personally a huge fan of those changes.

I am conscious however, that our industry has a lot more work to do in the sustainability space. Whilst we should admire big company efforts - like Crayola stepping up with a 100% solar power investment or Mattel's commitment to use 100% recycled, recyclable, or bio-based plastic by 2030 - it still feels like these adjustments are not happening fast enough. 

As a result, I’m calling on the industry to create a toy story with a happy ending - one where we all can play a role to make the world a better place.

The SiLC conference's emphasis on collaboration for positive change in the $340 billion global brand and licensing business truly resonated with me, leaving me genuinely inspired. Let’s hope these conversations (and more importantly actions) continue at COP28 - taking place later this month. 

It’s hugely important that we  collaborate and share best green practices so that progress can be faster and more widespread. After all, it’s in all of our interests to do so. 

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