As a mother of three, I never cease to be amazed by what my children teach me daily. The little one (not so little at 11-and-a-half years old) and his best friend have both been elected as ‘sustainability leads’ in their school after a harsh campaign seeing five teams compete for that privilege in each and every class. Sustainability and the environment are now part of the school curriculum in France and many other countries, and he feels very strongly about it – much more so than his big brother (18) and big sister (20). His generation is leading the way, although it literally takes time as he stops everywhere in the street to pick up and dispose of litter whenever we go anywhere. These kids’ voices are being heard and, quite frankly, it humbles me.
Sustainability is a topic that is taken very seriously within the global toy industry, with every major player taking on the challenge of becoming more environmentally friendly and seeking alternatives to bring sustainable solutions to packaging and products. This includes rolling out plastic-free packaging, integrating renewable materials in their products whenever possible, and much more.
An increasing number of the industry’s customers, the children, are turning their backs on single-use toys like those you can find packaged from select industry magazines, or in children’s drive-thru meals. In fact, they are often the ones telling their parents to change their behaviour and be more respectful of the planet. I think this is a great news for the toy industry as such products tend to give toys a bad reputation. We should differentiate between good quality toys complying to safety guidelines and single-use freebies.
Many of today’s large international toy brands have taken a ‘cradle to grave’ approach to sustainability, implementing programs for recycling of packaging and, once their play life is over, their products. For example, one noticeable trend developing this year is the repurposing of toy packaging, with many manufacturers designing their box with a packaging that is designed to be used as a backdrop, stage, or set for the toys.
Some are looking at alternative material, too. For example, NPD data shows growth in sales of wooden toys for preschoolers (most of the wood is recycled or used from managed forests). Sales of such toys have increased by 34% globally in the last three years alone, proof of consumer concern for the environment.
Socially driven issues such as sustainability will remain at the forefront of consumers’ minds; and they will look for companies demonstrating transparency and commitment to these issues. By socially driven issues, I mean diversity, inclusion, racial and gender equality, and sustainability, to name a few. In fact, MediaPost reported that, according to a recent study, 77% of U.S. consumers are more willing to purchase a company’s products or services if the company demonstrates a commitment to addressing social, economic, and environmental issues. Toys/brands that can leverage these values to build trust with consumers will be rewarded with loyalty and increased sales.