A chance to get ethical standards right

Mark Robertson, Senior Vice President, Communications & Stakeholder Relations, ICTI Ethical Toy Program

Mark Robertson, Senior Vice President, Communications & Stakeholder Relations, ICTI Ethical Toy ProgramMark Robertson looks at how the growth of toy manufacturing in India presents a unique opportunity to get ethical standards right from the start.India continues to raise its profile as a country that wants to do business.According to Delhi's Central Statistics Office, economic growth is expected to hit a high of 7.6% in 2016, making India the world’s fastest-growing major economy.With a population of 1.3 billion, the world’s biggest community of millennials, and 1 billion Indians online by 2030, India’s domestic market offers exciting potential for toy brands, retailers and manufacturers alike.On a recent fact-finding visit to India, we saw for ourselves how the country’s bold ambitions are also reflected in its growing toy manufacturing industry.In March, ICTI Ethical Toy Program President & CEO Carmel Giblin and other ICTI Ethical Toy Program colleagues from our Program Monitoring and Development team visited toy factories in Bangalore, Goa, and Mumbai.The team met toy factory owners, factory workers, industry representatives and toy buyers to discuss how together, we can further optimise the ICTI Ethical Toy Program to address key risks and protect the lives of workers, whilst supporting the growth toy manufacturer in India.From a responsible sourcing perspective, India is a relatively high-risk country where challenges around intellectual property protection, bribery, corruption and modern day slavery exist – and child labour laws are often poorly enforced. However, established ethical manufacturing initiatives are already underway in other sectors in India, such as apparel.While toy manufacturers in India are relatively new to learning about the requirements and expectations of their customers and stakeholders in regards to ethical and social sustainability standards, we saw a commitment to getting things right, to working openly and collaboratively and most importantly to ensure they were doing the best for their workers.ICTI Ethical Toy Program has over a decade of experience working with Chinese toy manufacturers to raise standards. We see the fastest progress on social sustainability issues when toy factories experience for themselves how creating safer, better workplaces is both good for workers and good for business. Toy brands and retailers also have a key role to play in supporting factories to ensure ethical standards are maintained. During our India visit, factory owners shared with us their ambitions for the toy industry. Many are investing in the future by building new facilities and investing in better equipment.We heard from one factory owner who hopes to have one of his facility’s management team to be completely female – a great opportunity to inspire women in the workplace and encourage them to seek out additional roles and responsibilities beyond basic production line tasks.Whilst challenges exist in India, our trip has shown us that the country is full of dynamic energy and new thinking. India’s burgeoning toy manufacturing industry presents exciting opportunities to ensure that high ethical manufacturing standards are embedded right from the start.ICTI Ethical Toy Program is committed to supporting toy manufactures wherever they may be located, which is why we’re sharing experience, best practice and lessons learnt in China to help other factories manufacture according to high ethical standards.Implementing effective management systems that build efficient and harmonious working environments, increasing understanding of the business benefits of ethical manufacturing, and providing guidance on how to meet global compliance standards are just some of the ways in which we plan to support Indian toy factories.We will host webinars to help build the knowledge capacity of factory management, invest in new training opportunities, and work with local partners to assure the quality of our program and protect the lives of workers.This article first appeared in Toy News