Inspiring the next generation of responsible toy makers

Tom van Haaren, Senior Advisor, Responsible Sourcing, ICTI Ethical Toy Program

I recently had the privilege of speaking to the Toy Design class at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. Led by Judy Ellis, a 2013 Toy Hall of Fame Inductee, this first-of-its-kind program teaches the next generation of toy makers, designers, and inventors, providing them with the skills they need to create safe, socially responsible toys that entertain, educate, and inspire kids of all ages.


Over the course of two hours, I introduced them to the work of the ICTI Ethical Toy Program as well as the ethical supply chain issues which are relevant to the sourcing of common toy components. These include issues ranging from conflict minerals to environmental concerns, forced labor to corruption. There are many supply chain risks which the ICTI Ethical Toy Program is set up to address. In addition to challenges, graduates also learned of good practice examples which toy factories are employing to enhance worker well-being.


Many of the FIT graduates will go onto strategic positions in toy companies of all shapes and sizes, where ethical toy sourcing continues to play an increasingly important role in daily business decisions.


Part of ICTI Ethical Toy Program’s mission is to safeguard and improve ethical standards in the global toy supply chain – my conversation with the Toy Design students was an excellent chance to raise awareness with those at the start of the supply chain.


Designers and inventors have immense influence over the materials that go into the next must-have toy. Responsible sourcing means understanding the ethical considerations which underpin the supply chains of these materials such as the potential for child labor in cotton and plush toys or the concerns over conflict minerals in the electronic components that have become commonplace in toys.


We hope that the ICTI Ethical Toy Program’s mission will continue to inspire toy makers of all ages to design and manufacture toys which respect both people and the planet.