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world’s toy industry to begin ethical audits

February 2003

The global toy industry is to begin auditing manufacturing sites throughout the world against a set of ethical business principles.

The work, which is being co-ordinated by the International Council of Toy Industries (ICTI), will involve visits by at least 200 accredited auditing firms to thousands of factories over the next few years to see if they comply with ICTI’s code of business conduct. The code sets out standards on issues such as fair pay, working conditions, health and safety and child labour.

It was launched in 1995 and revised in 2001.

The goal is that ‘within two or three years’ 80 per cent of toys sold worldwide will be made in factories approved by ICTI-accredited auditors. ICTI will begin training the auditors in the next few weeks.

ICTI is a confederation of 20 national trade associations whose members include companies such as Mattel and Lego. Founded in 1974, its combined membership accounts for around 95 per cent of toys sold worldwide.

Much of the initial auditing work will be in China, which produces around 75 per cent of the world’s toys and has 2800 factories with toy export licences.

Factories that pass an audit will receive an ICTI certificate and can label their products as compliant with the code. However, Thomas Conley, president of the Toy Industry Association of the United States, was ‘doubtful’ if many toy companies would use the kitemark as a marketing tool. ‘Our primary target in terms of letting people know what we’re doing is the NGO community, as they are the ones really pressing the issue,’ he said.

Conley said ‘unjustified’ bad public relations about factory conditions had partly prompted the industry to act. ‘Although I don’t believe our suppliers are any better or worse than the norm, we are a very easy target for the activists because the users of our products are children,’ he said.

Conley added that another key factor was the changing attitude of the government in China, which he believed had become more committed to upholding basic standards at factories since it joined the World Trade Organization.

The ‘ethical auditing process’ was developed by the US Association and the Toy Industries of Europe, tested in 30 factories in China, then handed over to ICTI ‘as the appropriate body for implementation worldwide’.

According to ICTI, the world toy market, including video games, was worth $69billion (£42bn) in 2000, with the biggest market in the US.




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