Lead painted Thomas engines, poisonous Veggie Booty powder, rubber duckies with a 5,000-year landfill half-life, the environmental insanity of shipping Fiji Water around the world. DT reader Shawna emailed with a question I've been wondering myself. Are there any "conscientious toy companies" out there?
I'm no xenophobe, but I've become a bit weary of things made in China. I get cheap labor - but I also understand distributed corruption, crappy human rights and a terrifying lack of environmental concerns. I'm trying to be a more conscientious consumer in all parts of my life - toys for the one year old should be part of that. I've told the grandparents to back off with the plastic and the batteries - but I was disappointed to see that even the "hand crafted" wood puzzles she got for her birthday from Melissa and Doug were also made in China. I wrote to ask them their policies on working in China and got a form letter about how they test for lead paint. That's nice - but that wasn't my question. So... I'm willing to pay extra - are you aware of any conscientious toy companies? China manufacturing in and of itself doesn't disqualify - but I want to know that they've at least given some thought to the issues of "fairness" in how they do business.So, wishful, futile thinking?
I threw the Veggie Booty mention in up there because the CEO himself said he didn't realize his Veggie seasoning was coming from China. The only way this'd work at the moment is for a company to take a pro-active, strategic decision to adhere to a higher standard than mere "legality," but what does that mean? What constitutes a conscientious toy company? Is there such a thing a "Made Nicely In China" label?
Bambu, the reusable/disposable bamboo spoon people, sound like they're trying to think this through. And some toy companies like Il Golfini della Nonna and Zid Zid make a point of aiding the development of the local artisans who make their stuff.
Is global manufacturing hopeless from the start? What if you have five Wal-Mart supercenters within a 100-mile radius, but no organic goatherds selling rattles made from hand-combed, undyed felt?