What’s the most important part of creating a toy? Making sure it’s safe. Mattel designs and engineers thousands of toys and other children’s products and each model is evaluated to make sure it meets stringent safety standards. Our internal product safety procedures are designed to meet or exceed regulations and laws enforced by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and their regulatory counterparts around the world. We operate 10 high-tech labs where our products are tested for safety, quality, and durability. Our labs — which are CPSC approved and ISO 17025 accredited — are equipped to drop, age, burn, twist, push and pull our products to test all aspects of safety before they arrive in your home and end up in the hands of children.
Passion for Product Safety
Creating a culture of product safety starts with passionate leaders. In October of 2013, Kitty Pilarz, our Vice President of Product Safety & Regulatory Compliance, received the Ronald H. Brown Standards Leadership award for her exceptional work creating product safety standards that made play safer for children all around the world.
“I have been working in Product Safety for over 25 years. I have worked with the quality experts at Mattel to set the bar high for the safety of our products, and to share our expertise in developing better standards worldwide for toys and juvenile products. As a mother myself, I am dedicated to ensuring all children benefit from our knowledge of children’s product safety.”
Kitty Pilarz, Vice President Product Safety and Regulatory Compliance
We take great care when selecting the materials in our products because we want to understand how they impact a child and the integrity of the product. We have a rigorous process to evaluate our suppliers’ procedures and practices.
Testing occurs at several points in the manufacturing process to verify conformance with regulatory requirements and our safety and quality standards. In addition, we continue to work to improve the sustainability of our materials (see the Sustainable Materials section to learn more).
We understand there is high interest in specific materials and chemicals, and we have banned the use of certain ones as detailed.
In toys, Bisphenol A, also known as BPA, is most often found in a material called polycarbonate, which is a very strong and clear plastic. Polycarbonate is used in many products to prevent them from shattering or breaking. For example, bicycle helmets and safety goggles are often made from polycarbonates to protect the user. While there are many beneficial uses of polycarbonate, there is a concern that BPA may negatively impact health. We set a standard that polycarbonate cannot be used in any product that is intended to be mouthed or touch food or made for a child under 3 except for power adapters and DVDs. For products with polycarbonate, we continue to pursue viable alternatives.
As one of the most highly-tested plastics in the world, PVC meets international standards for safety and health. Our evaluations to date of alternative plastics have not identified a material that’s able to meet all of Mattel’s quality, safety, and supply chain requirements. Historically, there has been concern about the use of lead and phthalates (see phthalates section) in PVC. At Mattel, we do not allow our suppliers to add lead to the PVC they are providing for our products - thus, we have strict limits and we regularly test for compliance. Another challenge with PVC is that it is recycled in very low quantities. For this reason, we are eliminating the use of PVC in packaging so more of our packaging can be recycled.
Mattel does not add chemicals to its products as flame retardants except in certain limited circumstances. For example, some electronic components and some products destined for specific markets (outside of North America) have flame retardants added in order to meet regulatory requirements. Mattel has designated certain flame retardants that may not be present in any of its products:
- Tris (2,3-dibromopropyl) phosphate
- Tris (aziridinyl) phosphinoxide
- Tri-o-cresyl phosphate
- Tris (2-chloroethyl) phosphate (TCEP)
- Tris(2-chloro-1-methylethyl) phosphate (TCPP)
- Tris (1,3-Dichloro-2-propyl) phosphate (TDCPP)
- Polybrominated-biphenyls (PBBs)
- Polybrominated-biphenyl ethers (PBDEs)
- Polychlorinated terphenyls (PCTs)
Phthalates help make plastics more flexible as well as improve their durability. There are different types of phthalates and some of them have been identified as posing a health hazard. Governments have banned the use of certain phthalates. We follow all phthalate legislation and require that all of our owned or operated manufacturing plants as well as our third-party finished toy manufacturing companies use a phthalate alternative when molding plastic parts for our products. We do not use the following phthalates in any accessible part of our products:
- Di (2-Ethylhexyl) Phthalate (DEHP)
- Benzyl butyl Phthalate (BBP)
- Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP)
- di-“isodecyl” phthalate (DIDP)
- di-n-hexyl phthalate (DnHP)
- di-“isononyl” phthalate (DINP)
- di-n-hexyl phthalate (DnHP)
- Diisobutyl phthalate (DiBP)
- Di-n-pentyl phthalate (DPP/DPENP)
- Dicyclohexyl phthalates (DCHP)
Select Fisher-Price products contain latex: baby bottle nipples, pacifiers and teethers. We clearly label packages for those products in case latex allergies are an issue for consumers or their babies. Enclosed latex, such as that found in elastic cords and straps, has not been shown to cause allergic reactions. Therefore, we don’t identify the presence of latex on packaging for products that have enclosed latex parts.
Why do we differentiate between accessible and inaccessible parts in our toys?
People have asked why we treat accessible parts in our toys differently from inaccessible ones. An accessible part is any part of a toy a child can touch when a product is assembled. Since protecting a child is of the utmost importance to us, we want to hold all parts of the toy with which a child plays to a higher standard. Therefore, we place stricter requirements on accessible parts. To evaluate whether an inaccessible part may become accessible, we put our toys through a series of durability and reliability tests to make sure the parts in question will stay inaccessible.
A bright future for children today and generations to come depends upon how well we protect the environment. At Mattel we understand that we have an impact on the world around us, so we strive to minimize our environmental footprint.
Mattel established sustainability goals in 2012 to help guide our efforts to improving our environmental performance. Learn more about our goals here.
As a child reaches for a new toy, his or her first glimpse into the world of play is through the package. Whether it’s Barbie as the President behind a podium or a Hot Wheels car racing down a Wall Track, the package opens each child’s imagination to the possibilities of play.
But even the best packaging has an environmental impact. That’s why we are working to reduce our packaging footprint through material sourcing, design, and recyclability.
By redesigning the Fisher-Price Learn with Lights Piano package, we reduced cardboard used by over 40% and saved 540,080 square feet of cardboard from the number of units produced in 2014 and 2015. That’s about 114 basketball courts — just for one product!
Starting in 2012, we challenged our design and development teams to design packaging using materials more efficiently. This initiative has identified hundreds of opportunities to reduce material use.
For example, instead of arranging the packages next to each other when cutting it out of a roll of paper, we now interlock them to optimize space as much as possible. In one Barbie product, we reduced the amount of wasted paper by 33%.
We also strive to improve the recyclability of our packaging. In 2016 we completed the phase out of PVC (polyvinyl chloride) in all single-use packaging, by replacing it with a more recyclable alternative. We have also begun using water-based inks in our packaging coatings.
To share and learn best practices, we are committed to participating in industry forums such as the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC). We also take part in packaging initiatives such as the Australian Packaging Covenant (APC). Learn more about our APC Action Plan and our APC Report 2016.
Our journey to create more sustainable toys requires us to study how materials impact the environment as well as their ability to pass our stringent quality testing requirements. Using materials with recycled content in our toys, for example, presents challenges because we have found that the recycling stream can contain contaminants such as heavy metals which are not acceptable for our products.
We realize sustainable innovation will not be easy, but we are committed to researching greener materials and finding sourcing partners that design for the environment. One such example is our Sustainable Sourcing Principles for paper and wood fiber.
Paper and Wood Fiber
Mattel is committed to using paper and wood fiber from companies that responsibly manage forests. In 2011, we launched Sustainable Sourcing Principles for paper and wood fiber to:
- Maximize the use of post-consumer recycled content where possible
- Increase the use of sustainably-certified fiber with a preference for Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification, and
- Avoid controversial sources in our packaging and products.
You can read our full list of principles here.
To help trace our packaging, and paper and wood fiber product supply chain, back to the country of origin, we work with the Rainforest Alliance, an international non-profit dedicated to conserving biodiversity and ensuring sustainable livelihoods. We require that our packaging suppliers use an online tool to record the type of paper used, our supplier’s suppliers, and the country of origin. We can then verify whether our suppliers have provided the proper documentation to show that they used recycled or certified paper. Rainforest Alliance conducts a third party validation of the data and identifies any risks and opportunities associated in our paper supply chain.
Our progress in responsible paper sourcing earned Mattel the Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Standard-Setter Award in 2014. Our collaboration with the Rainforest Alliance is just the beginning of a partnership dedicated to protecting the planet for future generations of children.
Sourcing conflict-free minerals in our products further advances our commitment to responsible practices. We do not condone human rights abuses or violence in any form and therefore are taking steps to ensure that minerals procured for use in our products do not support conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo or adjoining countries. In this regard, Mattel will perform the necessary due diligence to avoid the use of minerals that benefit armed groups in these countries, in accordance with the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)’s Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas. For more information on our conflict minerals position read here.