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Over the past few weeks, I’ve had a crash course introduction to the toy industry. From the boardrooms of New York to the factory floor in Shantou, China, I met with people who are passionate about their industry and the happiness that toys bring to everyday life. I also had the chance to meet with my new colleagues at ICTI CARE. This team has a strong passion for ensuring that our ethical manufacturing certification is promoting better working conditions in the factories that make the world’s toys.
There is always a learning curve when joining a new organization – new faces, new processes, and new lingo. However, the opportunity to work on responsible sourcing issues at the factory was too unique to pass up. My background in the socially responsible investment community taught me that companies are often reluctant to discuss publicly the challenges they face when it comes to supply chain issues. Either they do not want to overcommit to a challenging goal or some haven’t fully mapped out the depth and breadth of their global network. Working closely with these companies as Senior Advisor at ICTI CARE, the toy industry can tackle the core issues in ethical manufacturing while also pushing aspirational ideals throughout their supply chain.
On the most recent trip to China, the changing nature of the workforce became apparent. Workers are more discerning when it comes to their employment choices. Social media allows workers to share potential job openings and discover factories that offer better benefits.  However, issues still exist regarding proper documentation of hours and basic human resources practices. In talking with factory owners, it is clear they understand the value of responsible sourcing but often have difficulty implementing policies to meet the different standards. Sadly, some factory managers are duped by so-called “consultants” that advise factories to create double books or guarantee a “good” audit in exchange for a hefty fee.
I look forward to working with my new ICTI CARE colleagues in ensuring that critical working standards are maintained while pushing for loftier goals in areas that make sense. We also hope that brands and retailers will commit to reaching these goals and work together for a stronger ICTI CARE program that benefits every level of the toy industry. 


Author: Tom van Haaren, Senior Advisor, Responsible Sourcing, ICTI CARE