What I like best about this column is the chance it gives me to write about extraordinary people. One person who, surprisingly, I have not covered to date is my friend Alan Hassenfeld. You may know his grandfather co-founded Hasbro and that Alan steered the company through some tumultuous times as CEO and Chairman. You can read about this part of Alan's life in Toy Wars, The Real Toy Story: Inside the Ruthless Battle for America's Youngest Consumers and other books about our industry, but what I find even more extraordinary has to do with his open heart and mind, how he is involved in so many causes and how he is helping so many people. He travels the world helping the helpless: street children in Brazil, the homeless in Pakistan, the sick and hungry in America... I don't have space to list all of his philanthropic endeavors. And yet, he always seems to have time to offer sage advice to people in the industry. People like me. He loves our industry and is a great spokesman for it. I think of Alan as a Statesman as well, because he doesn't just represent Hasbro. He goes beyond company lines.
I asked him recently if he would share thoughts about one of his many passions, his work with the International Council of Toy Industries' CARE Process.
Alan: There has been a strong focus on toy safety over the past few years -- and deservedly so. Much has been done by the toy industry and government to help ensure that the toys are safe.
But there is another kind of safety – one that is also very important and runs the risk of being lost in the shuffle – the health, safety and well-being of the people who make our toys. Hasbro, and I personally, have long worked hard to ensure that workers in toy factories have a healthy, safe and clean environment in which to work and are treated fairly in terms of working hours and wages.
We call this “Ethical Manufacturing;” and the system we use to make sure the toy industry adheres to it is called the ICTI CARE Process. “ICTI” stands for the International Council of Toy Industries, the worldwide toy industry association; and “CARE” stands for Caring, Aware, Responsible and Ethical – the attributes we seek to bring to all aspects of making toys.
We began with the development of an ICTI Code of Business Practices, to which the 21 national toy industry associations that are the members of ICTI were signatories. From there, we developed the factory monitoring program that we call the ICTI CARE Process that assures that factories conform to the code’s requirements..
Since 2004, this program has been working to enable all of us in the toy industry to assure our consumers that our products are manufactured under safe and humane conditions. We do this by providing training and education for toy factory employees and enforcing a thorough and consistent monitoring program for toy factories.
We have met with considerable success so far, but still have a ways to go. We began in China, the country with the largest share of worldwide toy manufacturing. Of the approximately 3,500 Chinese factories licensed to export toys, more than half (2400) are registered in the program and about 1200 have been certified as being in compliance, with the balance working toward compliance. In total, there about 1,700,000 toy workers benefitting from our program in the registered factories.
In order to make sure that the ICTI CARE Process is fully transparent and remains focused on factory workers, a non-profit ICTI CARE Foundation was established to fund and oversee the Process. The Foundation itself is headed by the ICTI CARE Foundation Governance Board, which I have the honor to co-chair with Maria Livanos Cattaui, former Secretary-General of the International Chamber of Commerce.
We have sought to develop a diverse board that would bring together not only toy brands and retailers, but also leaders of international organizations dedicated, in whole or in part, to the same ideals. Thus, while we have leaders of toy companies, like Hasbro, and of retailers, like Toys “R” Us, and toy industry retired statesmen, we also have members from the United Nations, from Harvard University’s Corporate Social Responsibility Program, from the International Youth Foundation, from TransFair USA, from the Fair Labor Association and a former European Foreign Minister.
The international toy industry is proud of what has been accomplished so far – bringing 1.7 million factory workers under our wing. Our plans now call for extending our reach within China and also reaching out to other toy manufacturing countries, like Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia. We will also begin to add in more worker and factory manager training programs, to ensure that workers know their entitlements and that managers understand how and why to provide them.
You can go to our website, www.icti-care.org, for more information and to measure our progress. And if you have questions, or wish to receive a copy of our Annual Report, please contact us at [email protected].