Third Party Transforming Toys – Do We Know Enough?

We may be playing a game that we’ve indulged in since we were young children, but we’re not kids any more. We are in the position to make ethical, responsible choices about our purchases. With that in mind, I’d like to ask how much we really know about the purchases we’re making when we’re collecting transforming toys…

A few quotes from the Hasbro website:

Our commitment to environmental sustainability has led us to evaluate and reconsider every element of our business

At Hasbro, we focus the bulk of our environmental sustainability efforts in two complementary areas: minimizing the environmental footprint of our operations and supply chain, and reducing the environmental impacts of our products and packaging.

Hasbro is especially proud to be an industry leader in curbing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. We are open about our efforts and have been formally reporting environmental performance since 2001 when we first committed to reduce our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Hasbro is proud to be recognized for its accomplishments in environmental sustainability, product safety, ethical manufacturing and philanthropy. Together, we are building a safe and sustainable world while providing people everywhere the opportunity to experience the power of play.

A few quotes from the Takara Tomy Website:

Our work to create new areas of green procurement has been evaluated by GPN.*1. As a result, we were awarded the “Award of Excellence” in the 13th Annual Green Purchasing Awards.

The criteria for eco toys are based on various areas of the toy life cycle and currently we have five criteria (as of June 2012).

Making Eco Friendly Toys, Eco Friendly Play, Long life, Eco Friendly Toys.

We will Maintain thorough product quality and safety assurance

We will be a good corporate citizen toward society and the regions in which we operate

We will be considerate of resources and the natural environment.

It seems clear that these big companies who bring us Transformers toys are committed to being ethical in the way they produce their toys. It’s always good when you know that in making a buying choice, you are supporting a company that is making efforts to minimize their impact on the environment, and set high ethical standards. After all, isn’t that what Optimus Prime would want?

But what do we know about the companies that make the third party toys? Do they produce their toys ethically, responsibly and in accordance with safety regulations?

In order to find out more, I went to one of the popular websites for obtaining transforming toys in the UK and looked up every third party transforming toy manufacturer that came up on their website. Nearly all of the third party producers had facebook pages which promote their products, but the “about” section for most of them contained very little information and certainly nothing about how sustainably their toys are produced or the ethics behind them. At the most they may have had a sentence about how the toys were made for the fans, or something explaining that cartoons were being brought to life. Some had links to websites, a few of which did not work.

Of those that had websites, only one of them said anything about how the toys were made, stating information only on the quality of the plastics and metals, but again nothing about sustainability or impact on the environment. One third party manufacturer hasn’t posted on their Facebook page since 2014, has no website and is still manufacturing toys which are available through popular sellers.

How many other things would you buy online despite knowing so little about them? Many people wouldn’t even buy anything from a company without a website these days, yet many third party toy producers are able to do just that with very few people asking any questions about them. Can you think of anything else that you would buy, that had a Facebook page that provided no information except pictures and how to contact them, and a website that didn’t work, no website, or one that provided little more information than you got from the Facebook page?

I want to pause here and say that the purpose of this article isn’t to bash third party toys or condemn them in any way. In fact, some of them come across as companies which are genuinely looking to provide a sort of service to the fans. I say some of them, because there is so little information for many of them that it’s difficult to tell if they are there for fans or simply to make money. Nevertheless, a few did come across as passionate about what they do and wanting to provide products that fans wanted. In fact, just by looking at some of the transforming toys on offer and the characters that they are meant to represent, it can be quite visible that some of these manufacturers are trying to identify gaps in the market and enable fans to get their hands on characters that they are not able to currently from the big names.

I know someone personally who is big into collecting third party toys and believes that they are fantastic quality, however just because something feels good and looks good, doesn’t mean that it does good.

If there are any ethical holes in the way third party toys are produced, it’s probably not done on purpose, but the reality is we just don’t know enough about them, and we have a responsibility as consumers to be asking questions of them.  There have been news reports in recent years which have shown a high street fashion seller in a bad light due to the way that their clothes are manufactured. Investigations have been done on a well-known sports shop about how its workers are treated, how would you feel if you found that people were being exploited to manufacture the toys you buy, or that their manufacture was harming the environment? Even in our supermarkets, there is clear labelling on our foods so that we can see if they have been ethically produced, such as being able to tell if we’re buying eggs from caged hens or free range birds.

It’s rational to want to know how your food is produced, or that people are being treated fairly when making things that we need. But when it comes to toys, our rational side tends to go out of the window a little bit, which is part of the fun of them. When something reminds us of something we loved during childhood, it re-awakens that inner child and allows us to take a mental holiday from our day to day concerns. It takes us back to simpler times, and feelings of “that’s awesome” and excitement. Our love for buying toys in adulthood shows just how impressionable we were during childhood, and how impactful things could be to us during this time in our lives.

However, just as I said in the opening line of this article: We may be playing a game that we’ve indulged in since we were young children, but we’re not kids any more.

There’s real damage being done to our world by many modern ways of living and manufacturing. Just because we can’t always see it, doesn’t mean it’s not affecting our lives in some way. We all have an ability to have an impact on how much or how little damage is done by the choices we make when we make purchases. As much as we want future generations to enjoy toys as much as we do, we also want them to have a positive environment to live in too. It genuinely fills me with a feeling of positivity and a certain relief in knowing that if I choose to indulge in my hobby buy buying a Hasbro or Takara Tomy toy, I know I’m choosing to buy from a company that tries to limit its impact on the environment and makes its ethics regarding such things well known.

Third party toys seem to provide a lot of joy to those that purchase them, but in order to ensure that we as consumers are fully aware of the choices we are making when we are choosing to buy them, more information needs to be available to us. We need to know: Do these toys comply with relevant safety legislation? What steps do the manufacturers take to ensure that they minimize their impact on the environment? Are these products made from sustainable materials? Are the people that work for the companies treated fairly?

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