Toys of tomorrow: the challenging sustainability path

Sanjay Luthra, TIE’s Chair of the Board

Working in the toy industry is a privilege I have enjoyed now for two decades. Every day I count myself lucky to be a part of this fun, innovative, and resilient sector. There is real fulfilment in knowing you are part of bringing kids joy and development opportunities.

Our care for our consumers does not stop in the here and now. We all want children to grow up and continue to have a future on a planet that can safely harbour and provide for them. In the past few years, I have seen many toy companies picking up the gauntlet and coming up with a variety of positive initiatives.

From the policy side, we can expect many changes to address what is clearly a global challenge. As chair of Toy Industries of Europe, I witness from up close the concerted push for a greener European Union (EU) through ambitious policies. There is a whole barrage of legislative changes coming our way that will impact many facets of how we do business today. They will affect everything, from the raw materials we use, to the claims we make and the labels we put on our packaging. It will affect the design, the durability, the repairability and the way we dispose of our toys.

The EU wants to be seen as a world leader in this field, sometimes proposing overzealous and impractical ideas, which Toy Industries of Europe, along with many other stakeholder organisations, tries to make more workable, and enforceable. Policy makers mean well but sometimes their ideas are impractical.

From a business perspective, I am encouraged to see a robust commitment from the toy sector. In the four years since launching our European Play for Change Awards, the Sustainability category has been the most popular, with the most entries each year, showcasing the toy companies’ eagerness to become greener.

What we do want to avoid, is for our sector to be singled out. We can see some ‘green creep’ into the proposal for new EU toy safety rules. While we have always accepted – as toys – to be more strictly regulated where safety was concerned, we see no reason why other consumer products should not be as green as toys. We are a relatively small sector and if we are in this alone, we will face challenges in finding providers or affording to comply, and the impact will be limited. An environmentally sustainable future for our children requires a collective effort across industries and policies should not be toy-specific in this field.

Let’s not forget that SMEs make up more than 99% of the European toy sector. They need time and all the support they can get to be able to adjust and embrace these big challenges. In the end, we all have the same goal: a better future for our children. Only by collaborating and by helping each other, industry and policy, can we achieve it.