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Five Factors Shaping the Future of Sustainable Toys

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There is growing environmental concern amongst consumers, with many taking a more social or political view than in the past. Consumers are demanding that companies do more to mitigate the effects their products have on the environment, vocalising their concerns with their wallets. Equally, the realities of climate change and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic have accelerated the move towards sustainable development and resourcing, particularly as the pandemic highlighted logistical failings. As such, toy manufacturers are looking for opportunities to offer their products in ways that ease eco-anxiety and address the realities of a changing world.

Below are five avenues that toy manufacturers are taking to address these concerns, making it part of their ongoing global strategy:

  1. Market leaders move towards sustainable products

Many leading toy manufacturers have faced criticism in recent years for not doing enough to address environmental concerns and failing to demonstrate sufficient social responsibility. According to Euromonitor International’s Voice of the Consumer: Lifestyles Survey 2022 eco-conscious consumerism is clearly on the rise, with over 60% interested in buying sustainably-produced items, as shown below. This has led to eco-innovations, which have prompted a general move towards more eco-friendly products. For example, in 2020 Mattel introduced its bioplastic Mega Bloks Green Town line, which uses plant-based and sustainable materials, is certified CarbonNeutral and teaches children about “green behaviour”. Equally, Hasbro has announced its intention to eliminate plastic packaging altogether.


  1. Reduction of plastic

As part of the eco-trend, consumers want fewer plastic toys – even though plastic toys account for almost 90% of the market according to environmental awareness fact checker The World Counts. The product lines of many toy companies, most notably Lego, make it difficult for them to easily switch from plastic to sustainable sources. Lego has a significant plastic issue: to produce Lego blocks, which saw a sales boom during the pandemic, 90,000 metric tons of plastic are used annually. Nevertheless, the company plans to stop the production of plastic blocks by 2030. The blocks will instead be made from plant-based materials, as part of its efforts to reduce plastic waste.

  1. Innovation in packaging

The packaging industry is actively innovating to reduce plastic waste and increase recycling rates and circularity. Recycling, cleanliness, usability and e-commerce are all factors that are considered while designing packaging. According to Euromonitor International’s Voice of the Consumer: Lifestyles survey, 2022 preferences for sustainable packaging, recyclable and biodegradable remain the top priorities for both parents and non-parents. Keeping in line with consumer preferences Lego, for example, has promised that by 2025, all of its packaging will be made from sustainable or recycled resources. For instance, the company will use paper instead of single-use plastic for packaging. Moreover, other businesses are opting for cost savings in terms of packaging size, and being more creative with the packaging to maximise utility. As China accounts for the majority of the world’s toys manufacturing, with products travelling long distances to reach consumers, it produces a significant amount of carbon dioxide, which is harmful to the environment. In response, companies are looking at ways to mitigate this, which may include moving to more local production.


  1. Eco-education

From agricultural sustainability to ocean trash, parents and their children are becoming more eco-aware. Looking at Euromonitor International’s Voice of the Consumer: Lifestyles survey, 2022, we learn that consumers’ education level affects how they understand green activities and what they like to do. This is an important factor for sustainability. As such, toy manufacturers are aiming to introduce products and entertainment services that are not only more environmentally-friendly, but also provide education on “green” behaviour. For example, Meteo Heroes is an Italian animated television series that began airing on the Cartoonito and Boomerang TV channels in April 2020. The primary goals of the series were to increase awareness of the implications of climate change and to broaden children’s understanding of its impact on the weather.


  1. Market leaders create sustainability goals

Companies are allocating a higher proportion of their resources to sustainability efforts than in the past, because customers expect it and, in certain circumstances, because the law compels it. Recyclables, volunteerism, and environmentally-friendly products are prioritised. The demand for recyclability has increased in importance, as well as delivering items that are more durable. Particularly in countries where such initiatives are lacking, businesses have a responsibility to take the lead in developing recycling systems and other programmes and services that support sustainability.

A sustainable toys strategy: From conception to shipping

Many leading manufacturers of toys and games are changing their practices in response to rising public awareness of the need to lessen their negative impact on the environment. Measures that were gaining support prior to the pandemic were the adoption of eco-friendly packaging and the increasing use of biodegradable plastic. Now, businesses need to do more to create a more serious sustainability strategy that incorporates the entire toy making process, from conception to packaging to shipping items all around the world.

For further insight, read Toys Go Green: Sustainability in Toys and Games

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