SUSTAINABLE TOYS: FROM ANONYMOUS GOODS TO TRUSTWORTHY PRODUCTS
Gingerbread, cinnamon stars, fairy lights and the hunt for the right Christmas tree – the Advent season is in full swing and Christmas is just around the corner. Adults slow down their pace and enjoy the good food; the little ones are happy with their presents and don’t want to let go of their new favorite toy. But not all these toys are good for children: in a cuddly toy test by German consumer organization Stiftung Warentest, half of the 22 plush companions tested failed because of harmful substances and safety risks. Since these risks are often not directly apparent and difficult for parents to recognize, toy manufacturers have to charge their products with trust. But how do anonymous goods actually become trustworthy products?
The reasons why soft toys fail tests are numerous: from dangerous packaging and highly flammable materials to small parts that can be swallowed and harmful substances. For example, according to Stiftung Warentest, one stuffed animal tested contained formaldehyde, a proven carcinogenic chemical. Another toy had naphthalene on the label – a substance that is also suspected of causing cancer. And since children are still growing up, they are particularly sensitive to such pollutants.
Such incidents are unfortunately not uncommon in the toy manufacturing industry: According to a report by the European Commission, more than 2,200 warnings were received from consumers about dangerous products across Europe last year – 29 percent of which were for defective or toxic toys. Although numerous products are regularly withdrawn from the market after sample tests, the number of unreported cases of contaminated toys in circulation is probably much higher.
One of the main reasons for this state of affairs is regulation in Europe: The European directive on the safety of toys sets relatively high maximum values for chemicals that may be contained in toys. At the same time, some manufacturers repeatedly violate these requirements without consequences, since only a small proportion of the products on the market are tested and controlled. As a result, harmful toys continue to circulate uncontrolled – and consumers demand transparent information on the materials contained in the products and the manufacturing process.
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TRUST IS BUILT ON TRANSPARENCY
For manufacturing toy companies, this raises one central question above all: How can they build trust in their own products among their customers? Even if they are not legally required to disclose the materials contained in their toys, appropriate labeling can help turn anonymous goods into trustworthy products. After all, in addition to regulatory requirements, social demands for greater transparency and the assumption of responsibility are becoming increasingly strong. And finally, according to a BUND publication, consumers have even had the right since 2006 to ask toy manufacturers about the chemicals they contain – and they are obliged to provide full information within 45 days.
From the point of view of the manufacturing companies, the keyword is transparency: transparency with regard to materials, the manufacturing process and the associated supply chain. In this way, the company’s own products can be given a boost of trust, while at the same time eliminating consumer doubts. However, many companies lack precisely this transparency in their own supply chain: They cannot, for example, prove where their products actually come from, which raw materials are processed and how the products are manufactured. One of the central reasons for this is that product data is not collected in its entirety throughout the entire life cycle. Supplier reporting is often of a purely qualitative nature, and there is also a lack of suitable infrastructure for secure data exchange across several levels of the supply chain.
Trust in anonymous products is also fostered by corresponding seals of approval – because many customers pay attention to whether toys are tested and certified by testing institutes. The TÜV TOXPROOF, ÖKO-TEST and spiel gut test seals, for example, regularly test toys for the absence of harmful substances and certify them accordingly if they pass. The Geprüfte Sicherheit (GS) seal, a legally regulated test mark in Europe, also indicates that a toy is safe for children. For this seal, manufacturers voluntarily make their products available for testing.
However, not only the toys, but also their production along the supply chain can be certified – more and more parents attach importance to sustainable production and want to know where the raw materials contained in the toys come from. For textiles, corresponding organic certificates such as IVN BEST provide the necessary information.
DIGITIZE YOUR PRODUCTS WITH TRUST&TRACE
So how can companies verify seals and test marks for their products and ultimately make their anonymized goods trustworthy? The key lies in the end-to-end digitization of products, because this is the only way to integrate them into automated and transparent business models. To make this possible, TRUST&TRACE gives products a digital identity: valid data about the entire life cycle of the product can be stored in this identity and shared securely with other companies thanks to decentralized technologies. In the case of toys, this means that a company can provide evidence of sustainable production conditions along the entire supply chain on the basis of this data and ultimately also share it with the customer. For example, it can be proven that no questionable materials were used in the production of a cuddly toy. Companies can also request the relevant seals for raw materials, such as textiles, from their partners. These can then be linked to the product identity and communicated transparently to customers. In this way, companies not only create trust among buyers: they also ensure that children can enjoy their favorite toys without any risk whatsoever – well beyond Christmas season.
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