How can you win small and medium sized companies to take responsibility for their suppliers in China? Each year, this topic is brought up at the international toy fair by civil society organisations and the international toy association.

The challenge seems tremendous:  Big companies who source in developing countries usually establishe a whole department or CSR team, whereas smaller companies lack the capacity at home as well as the buying power abroad to influence factory behaviour.  Therefore it is even more surprising, that the toy industry, with a high share of medium sized enterprises has established an international, industry wide approach – But how do you get companies to join?

The industry takes a special approach: Increasingly, national associations make it compulsory for their members to join the ICTI CARE process, an international programme introduced by the International Toy Association in 1998  to promote ethical manufacturing in Chinese toy factories.  In Germany, it was decided in 2008 that all members of “the Deutscher Verband der Spielwaren-Industrie e.V. ” should follow suit until the end of the year. But only deciding doesn’t necessarily imply automatic compliance.  This is why a coalition of various German NGOs “Aktion fair spielt”, which is critically accompanying the ICTI Care process,  produced a list of leaders and laggards, making it public at the toy fair. This list symbolizes not only a “naming and shaming” approach, but builds the basis for further talks between the  national, the international association and the missing firms at the fair. Usually, this direct engagement is seen as the best way to win companies to participate. At the same time, the “Aktion fari spielt” tries to keep track if announcements are turned into reality. However, joining the ICTI Care process doesn’t guarantee feasibility for some smaller companies, as actual implementation might turn out difficult in an economic environment characterised by fierce time and pricing pressure.