Exclusive: ICTI Ethical Toy Program: Making a Difference with Social Initiatives | Featured: The Toy Book

This article was originally published in the October 2021 edition of the Toy Book. Click here to read the full issue!


Many businesses are embedding environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals into their corporate DNA and are looking for ideas to create an impact in these areas. You may know the ICTI Ethical Toy Program (IETP) for our certification and audits that support businesses by providing assurance on the labor standards and conditions in their supply chains. What you may not know is that IETP also works with many brands, retailers, factories, and other organizations to develop social impact programs tailored to meet the needs of the manufacturing industry.

Factory workers are critical to the success of the toy and play industry, and IETP has some corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative recommendations that businesses of all sizes and categories should consider adopting into their value chains.

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Empowering Workers Through Worker Voice

Feedback is an important component of achieving effective improvement. A labor voice initiative enables workers to provide crucial, real-time information on the working conditions inside of a factory. A trusted and confidential worker voice mechanism helps to uncover issues that may otherwise be difficult to raise directly to management. It is also important that workers know their questions and concerns are acknowledged through established procedures.

International brands, manufacturers, and standard-setting organizations seek to create trusted communication mechanisms to increase supply chain transparency. As a result, they also seek to improve working conditions and mitigate labor and reputational risks.

The IETP Worker Helpline is a trusted communication channel for factory workers. It offers free, confidential information and advice to more than 500,000 factory workers employed at more than 1,000 factories in the IETP program. Highly valued by workers, factories, and buyers alike, our helpline also goes beyond the labor-related matters covered by most worker voice programs to provide personal support with relationships, homesickness, and health issues.

Family-Friendly Workplaces

As millions of domestic migrant workers in China find work in larger cities, many are unable to bring their kids with them, leaving them in smaller villages with their grandparents. Since these families often reunite only once a year during the Chinese New Year holidays, migrant parents face enormous pressure to balance family and work commitments, particularly during the peak summer season when kids are most vulnerable to being left unsupervised.

To help improve workforce stability and the needs of the community, IETP started the Family-Friendly Spaces (FFS) program, which helps reunite migrant families during the summer months by creating safe, secure, and well-equipped spaces at factories for kids to learn and play while their parents work.

Over the past five years, 71 family-friendly spaces accommodated more than 3,000 kids, enabling 3,145 participating workers to spend valuable time together as a family. Each year, the number of factories that participate in the program grows due to the positive impact FFS has on families and the factories themselves.

After School Centers (ASC) are factory-based facilities where workers’ kids are taken care of after school until their parents finish work. This supports local workers and migrant workers who are now able to bring their kids with them after relocating for work. Unlike FFS, ASC stays open all year, providing ongoing support and relief to working parents.

FFS and ASC have proven themselves as sustainable models for businesses of all sizes, producing measurable impacts and meaningful engagement for everyone involved.

Migrant Parent Training

Not all brands and factories can offer FFS or ASC to the workforce, so the Migrant Parent Training (MPT) program is designed for those companies. MPT provides training and support to help migrant parents overcome the stress and challenges associated with being separated from their kids, as well as educating parents on how to provide support at a distance.

Since 2016, MPT has supported nearly 5,000 workers and their families. “I felt that in the past, the communication between my kids and me was often ineffective and unhelpful. After the training, I will call my kids more often, speak less, and listen more,” a participating father says.

MPT is a great starting point to invest for impact. The duration of the program is comparably short and the positive impacts it has on workers and their kids are significant.

The worker well-being initiatives shared in this article are accessible to companies of any size, from start-ups to global giants. Every company can support workers in their supply chains and have a positive impact on the communities the company relies upon.