Ethical Toy Research

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Ethical Toy Research

Toymakers Called to create Ethical Charter Toymakers Called to create Ethical Charter

Academic Calls for Toymakers Fair Play Ethical Charter to increase Parents Trust in Toys

A study carried out at Brunel University calls for toy manufacturers to clarify their ethical stance with a consumer charter so parents feel happier with their toy purchases.

Further suggestions include:
  1. Redistributing or recycling unwanted toys and games
  2. Creating more toy lending libraries
  3. Usng more environmental friendly materials and power sources in toys
  4. Developing clearer guidelines in the industry on marketing to children via web sites and in-school activities.

Recent research carried out at Brunel University calls for the toy industry to develop a ‘fair play’ consumer charter to clarify toy manufacturers’ ethical position on a range of issues from the materials used and their manufacturing processes to their marketing tactics. Dr Steve Hogan believes that lifestyle pressures lead many parents to feel vulnerable to the pester power generated by toy marketing. A charter may go some way towards making parents feel more satisfied with the toys they purchase and help them make more informed choices rather than simply giving in to their children’s demands.

Dr Hogan, who carried out the research whilst studying for his PhD at Brunel University, explains: "Parents today are simply too busy to check the ethical credentials of every single toy manufacturer. All too often, it’s easier to give in to our kids as they clamour for the latest toy. But behind every purchase there is a lingering feeling that somehow we’re being taken advantage of. What we need, to erase this slight air of mistrust, is to have a clear charter from manufacturers or the British Toy and Hobby Association who represent the industry outlining their ethical stance so we know exactly what to expect from the consumer relationship."

"This isn’t a criticism of the manufacturers my research shows that they are making significant efforts to ensure that the safety, quality, manufacture and marketing of their products follow the strict guidelines of an industry which generally has high ethical standards. However, the study shows that more needs to be done to communicate these as many consumers remain sceptical of the industry’s motivations; put simply, toy companies need to be more proactive in their attempts to build consumers’ trust. "

Dr Hogan adds "There are areas where the toy industry could enhance its reputation for caring. An obvious first step would be to back toy recycling. Around 4 million children live on or below the poverty line in this country, many of whom will not have received piles of toys at Christmas. The toy industry could make more efforts in conjunction with parents to help such children through redistributing or recycling the large numbers of unwanted toys and perhaps creating more toy lending libraries. At the same time such a policy would be environmentally friendly at a time when waste problems are becoming critical."

The industry could also consider using more sustainable materials in their production where plastics predominate and in the power sources of toys that heavily rely on disposable batteries. Finally the industry could take further steps in self-regulating the targeting of children. Whilst the rules governing television advertising of children’s toys seem effective, it is in the less regulated marketing areas such as children’s web sites and in-school activities where the industry could usefully determine and enforce appropriate standards that could also be included in a charter.

Toy Industry Statistics
The toy industry is highly competitive and price sensitive.
In 2004 the market was worth £2.1 billion (BTHA, 2005), with the Christmas period accounting for around 52% of toy sales over £1 billion (NPD Consumer Panel, 2004).
There are currently 1000 toy and leisure libraries in the UK serving around 250,000 children (National Association of Toy and Leisure Libraries, 2006)

How was the research carried out?
The research was undertaken between November 2004 and February 2005. Interviews were conducted with senior marketing executives from 12 leading toy companies including Mattel, Hasbro, LEGO, Tomy and the Early Learning Centre.
In addition, a number of focus groups were held with parents.

The research was carried out at Brunel University. Dr Steve Hogan is currently Principal Lecturer - Marketing and BA (Hons) Business Studies/Management Course Leader at Brighton Business School, University of Brighton.

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Ethical Toy Research

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