Sanjay Luthra, Chairman of the Toy Industries of Europe and MD EMEA Mattel
Toys have always been about more than having fun. Play is the way we learn and grow. A good toy is a teacher, a friend and a guide that helps a child make sense of a vast and confusing world.
That is a responsibility that reputable toymakers take seriously. The messages our toys send to children will help to define the society we build. We are mindful of the life lessons children might draw from the products we make.
Do they foster kindness or callousness? Do they encourage a desire to share? Are they helping our children become the people we want – and the planet needs – them to be?
Toy Industries of Europe (TIE) brings together responsible manufacturers and distributors who share common visions and values.
We want to help build a sustainable society that exists in harmony with the natural world; a tolerant society that respects differences and celebrates diversity; and an empowered society in which children are equipped with the role models and skills to achieve their dreams.
Noble ambitions aren’t enough, however. We must walk the walk. The toy industry has a particular responsibility to act, because what we make is more than just another commodity.
Rising to the Challenge
That is a lot to live up to, and getting there is not always easy. But we are deeply committed to do our very best to get there. TIE members apply strict standards and rigorous processes to the way we make and sell our products. At the same time, we constantly push ourselves to do more to stay true to our values.
We understand the challenge is compounded by the commercial pressures of a fast-changing retail landscape, where children and their parents increasingly shop, interact and consume media in a fragmented world.
That is why now is the perfect time to celebrate those who are doing the right thing. Let’s reward the efforts of pioneering companies and brands, big and small. Let them shine as examples to the whole industry of what can be done. And, let them inspire the trust of parents and children who share our values.
Play for Change
The TIE’s new Play for Change awards will champion the products and initiatives of forward-looking manufacturers throughout Europe and highlight how toy companies – no matter what size – are behaving like leaders, thinking beyond the product itself and about the impact their company has on the planet and kids’ futures.
The awards focus on three categories – sustainability, empowerment and future skills.
Companies of all sizes are making commitments to improve sustainability in a variety of ways: reducing carbon emissions; replacing plastic derived from fossil fuels with bio-based plastics; making both products and packaging easier to recycle; using packaging made from FSC-certified forests and recycled sources; and reducing packaging altogether.
Every effort counts, and many of the pledges involve ambitious targets. That is what today’s generation of environmentally conscious young people demand, and what we owe them to deliver.
Empowerment through Diversity and Inclusion
For toys to empower all children, they need to be representative of society, counter stereotypes, and inspire belief in one’s potential. We want all children to be able to find a toy they can relate to whatever their gender, skin colour, or abilities.
Today’s toy ranges are more diverse and inclusive than ever before. Whether it is through dolls that break gender norms or come with wheelchairs or prosthetic limbs, action figures that reflect a wider definition of what it means to be a hero, or board games that have been updated to include more aspirational characters, toys inspire and empower.
This is particularly true for girls, who have traditionally been more limited in their choices of available role models. A huge variety of toys are now encouraging little girls around the world to dream of being whatever they want to be when they grow up – and those dreams will drive social change.
For children, fulfilling their dreams will require new skills – often ones that their parents do not have. The world of tomorrow needs scientists, engineers, people who can code, creative thinkers and problem solvers of all kinds.
There has been an explosion in the popularity of toys that can help children to develop these skills. Anyone who has watched a child successfully build, experiment, or solve a puzzle knows that the resulting satisfaction and sense of achievement can be the spark that ignites a lifelong passion for learning.
The Play for Change Awards will be a recognition of what those of us who take making toys seriously have always known: we have a very special role to play in society. Most of those with the imagination, care and social responsibility to make a real difference for generations to come are represented in Toy Industries of Europe.
So visit the Play for Change Awards website at www.playforchangeawards.eu. And, if you think your toy company is making a worthy contribution, apply. Our industry deserves that recognition.