In 2007, the Mattel toy company recalled around 20 million of its toy products do to contamination of lead in the paint and safety issues dealing with parts of its products (magnets) that was manufactured in China. The Mattel Company is considered the “global leader’ in toy manufacturing with over 30,000 people employed in over 40 countries and operates in more than 150 countries. The Mattel Company faces the dilemma a lot of companies face when using overseas manufacturing. If not closely monitored, they can and will cut corners which could put the company at risk. Who is responsible for the safety of children’s toy and who should be held accountable? An Analysis of the Mattel case study should reveal who is and who isn’t.
1. Do you believe that Mattel acted in a socially responsible and ethical manner with regards to the safety of its toys? Why or why not? What should or could Mattel have done differently? The study case of the Mattel Toy Company’s toy recall is a difficult one to call. The company went over and beyond to make sure that its products where safe for the public. The case study states that in 1997, the Mattel Company developed a “code of conduct” which included a wide range of ethical issue such as child safety laws, safety and health regulations. Mattel went as for to hire Professor S. Prakash Sethi, who is the head of a non-profit organization by the name of the International Center for Corporate Accountability which conducted audits on Mattel facilities.
Mattel was also recognized by Forbes Magazine as one of the most trustworthy U.S. companies and was also recognized by CRO Magazine as one of the best corporate citizens out of 100, so they had built a reputation for being a solid socially responsible and ethical company. Ethics can be defined as moral principles that guides the way a person or a business behaves. Social responsibility is an ethical theory, that a person or a business has an obligation to benefit society as a whole. Basically the products or actions of a person or a business should be a benefit to society and The Mattel Company took pride in being just that. Even though Mattel had to recall a lot of its products, I do believe they acted socially responsible and ethically. Mattel tested its products in their own testing facilities and in other special test labs to ensure the safety and quality of its products, and had specifically targeted lead based paint. Once Mattel found out that some of its products contained harmful lead based paint and the magnets in some of its products could be a safety concern, the company had an immediate recall of the products contaminated.
Mattel used several outlets such as the Consumer Product Safety Commission, regulating agencies from all over the world and newspapers to address the issue of the lead based paint in its products and the magnet problem. Mattel also made it possible for consumers of their products to have access to outlets in which they can return the contaminated products for a refund or a safer replacement product. Mattel did do a lot to ensure the safety and quality of their products, but, they could have taken even further steps to avoid this situation. For one, Mattel should has done research on the on the Chinese firms outside contractors. Even though some of these contractors had been audited, they replaced the approved paint for the lead based paint. So Mattel should have kept a closer eye on these subcontractors in order to maintain their good image with society.
Mattel cannot be solely at fought for this recall; the Mattel Company was also a victim in this situation. 2. Who or what do you believe was responsible for the fact that children where exposed to potentially dangerous toys? Why do you think so? This is a hard question because there are several entities that can be blamed for this recall. Number one is those that are responsible for consumer product safety. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is an independent federal regulating agency who assumes the responsibility of protecting the public from dangerous products. This agency was created in 1972 with the Consumer Product Safety Act. This Act gives the CPSC the authority to develop standards and bans on products. It is the job of this regulating agency to make sure that products are safe for public use, but it seems the dropped the ball on the Mattel toy recall. The case study states that the CPSC was severely underfunded and understaffed.
The case study also states that in 2007 the CPSC only had about 400 employees in which only 15 of them were investigators with the job of investigating products that come through the ports. Needless to say with the amount of product that come through the ports and the number of ports used in the U.S. to import and export product is too much for only 15 people to handle, also the CPSC only had 100 employees monitoring products on store shelves and only had a budget of 62 million. Another player that has responsibility in exposing children to potentially harmful products (toys) is the Chinese government. The enforcement of lead standards in China was not enforced, so the companies did as they wanted when it came to lead based paint.
The magnet situation of more of a product design malfunction, according to the case study, so that can be easily taken care of, however, the lead base paint issue is one of enforcement. If the Chinese government had adequate enforcement of lead paint regulations, which is better than that of the U.S. at one point, this would have never been a problem for the Mattel toy company. The most responsible for this recall is the Mattel Company. Regardless of regulation inspectors and audits, they owe it to the stakeholders of the company to ensure that the products that they are manufacturing are safe. That is what social responsibility and ethics are based upon. 3. What is the best way to ensure the safety of children’s toys? There is no way to fully ensure the safety of children’s toys, but the best way is to enforce federal legislation on toy manufactures. This is a challenge because the majority toys in this country are manufactured in other countries such as China and Asia. Federal regulation can ensure that there are uniform standards for toy manufacturing.
As of June 12, 2012, all manufactures and importers of children’s toy must comply with federal regulation. These toys must be tested for compliance of regulation and the testing must be done by the CPSC. It is also in the best interest of other countries to enforce regulation on toy manufactures. Since toys are a big export for other countries such as China and Asia, they would want to be in good standing with the U.S. by setting some standards on toy manufacturing. Consumer’s advocates groups need to stay involved in toy safety issues and provide input that can help set guidelines for federal legislation. The consumer advocates can influence regulation and keep the public informed on issues of child toy safety. In 2008, consumer groups such as the Consumers Union, Consumer Federation of America, and Kids in Danger attended House and Senate conferences to push for a well-funded Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
As a response to the demand of the consumer advocate groups, Congress acted by banning lead based products in children’s toys. This act of the consumer advocate groups is a perfect example of the interactive social system between corporations and society, the fact that they are so interdependent on one another that if action is taken by one it will affect the other (Lawrence & Webber, 2011, p.21). These stakeholders can have a profound effect on regulation of a company. The toy industry can also play a large role to ensure the safety of children’s toys. They can listen to input form stakeholders on issues that could make their products safer. They also can follow the requirements of the Consumer Product Safety Commission closely or even go a step beyond the CPSC regulations to ensure that their toys are safe for kids. The toy industry could also be shown as a leader in toy safety by collaborating with foreign manufactures to push their toy safety regulation to coincide with that of the U.S. standard.
They could hold international regulation meetings and have input on the regulation of toy safety that can have influence on policy. These kinds of actions from the toy industry could give them a good standing with stakeholders and regulators both if they are viewed as being actively involved in the safety of the children’s toys that they are making. After all these are their customers and in business you are trying to acquire more customers not lose them, so these type of actions by the toy industry would only benefit them and the customers that helps make them the business’s that they are today. Since the increase of imported toys, the rate of injury to kids playing with toys has increased. Accountability of the toy industry is a must to bring toy safety to a minimum.
Corporate negligence of the sub-contractors of toy manufactures need to be recognized and investigated thoroughly to insure toy safety. An article be the American Association for Justice (Playing with Safety: Dangerous toys and the Role of Americas Civil Justice System) states that “A Public Citizens analysis of consumer recalls found that companies waited an average of 993 days to inform the CPSC of defects, and the agency (CPSC) waited another 209 days before informing the public (American Association for Justice) of the dangerous toys. This is a little more than 3 years before the public is informed of a toy health hazard by the toy industry and CPSC. The CPSC and the toy industry should be held responsible and held accountable for those that are put in danger by these toys. If both the CPSC and the toy industry are held accountable for the time laps of getting the information to the public it would improve toy safety. 4. What do you think is to best way for society to protect children from harmful toys? Specifically, what are the appropriate roles various stakeholders in this process?
The best way to protect children from harmful toys has to be a collective effort between stakeholders, the toy industry, and government regulators. This collective effort can be beneficial to all. First, the federal government must fund the CPSC properly in order for it to function at a level in which it can handle the bulk of toys coming through our ports. I can see how the CPSC was overwhelmed with the task of making sure all toy products are safe before and after they hit the shelves. The CPSC was too understaffed and underfunded to be affective. At the time of the recalls, the CPSC’s power was limited to ensure the safety of children’s toys. According to an article written by Jo Hartely of the National News (Protecting Our Children from Toxic Toys), “The CPSC cannot legally test children’s products before sale and do not have the funds or capacity to do so if desired” (Hartley, 2008).
This at the time really made it hard to ensure toy safety. Also, according to the article, another way to ensure toy safety is to revise the U.S chemical regulatory system. The article states that around 80,000 chemicals are cleared for use in everyday products and 2,500 are introduced every year. Most of these chemical have not been tested for potential health impacts on children or fetuses (Hartley, 2008). This is another flaw in the regulatory system that needs to be addressed to ensure toy safety and it will take a collaborative effort to make this happen. The appropriate role for the non-market stakeholder in this toy safety issue is to use the non-market stakeholder’s power to use resources to influence regulatory policy on toy safety. Stakeholder power is founded in the power that they have to vote for those that support regulations that they want to see enacted on toy safety.
The can also utilize economic power in order to get there point across to the toy industry on toy safety. They also have the power to use civil suits against negligent toy manufactures that are selling harmful toys. Consumer advocate groups are also categorized as non-market stakeholders. These groups can pull resources and get the word out about the negligence of a toy manufacture which could also persuade government entities to act. Groups such as the Consumer Federation of America, kids in danger and the Consumer Union have already influenced stricter regulation of the toy industry with success. The categorization of the federal government as a non-market stakeholder is still up in the air for most, but, the impact and role that the government has in the issue of toy safety is huge.
The government can and has the power to regulate the toy industry to ensure toy safety. Regulating toy safety is not an easy task for the government and will not ensure that all toys will be safe, but, they can minimize the problem. One way they government can minimize harmful toys that may get in the possession of children is by funding the CPSC properly so that they can enforce the regulatory laws on toys safety. Between 2008 and 2011 the federal government passed regulations that give the CPSC more power to hold the toy industry accountable for toy safety. In 2008, the Consumer product Safety Act was amended in 2011 which gave the CPSC new found power to enforce regulation laws on the toy industry which included civil and criminal penalties for those that broke the laws of toy safety. It also included third party testing of toy products so that testing of the products was not left solely to the toy industry which could be manipulated as so the case of Mattel toys.
The federal government also passed the Child Protection Safety Act, which protects children from choking hazards. This legislation requires warning labels on products that may present a choking hazard for kids and also mandates that manufactures, importers, distributors, and retailers to report certain choking incidents. Even though the Mattel toy company and CPSC regulatory agency made adjustments necessary to minimize children’s toy hazards. It was their duty and obligation toy insure that the products that they sold were safe for children to play with in the beginning. All though Mattel had an outstanding ethical and social responsible reputation, the ball was dropped on this issue in 2007. One reason was the expansion of manufacturing and production of their products to foreign countries that they could no keep a close eye on. All in all it is up to us all to ensure the safety of our children when purchasing toys for our kids to play with. We cannot solely leave it up to regulatory systems and toy manufacture; we also have to play our role in this issue.
American Association for Justice (2010). Playing with Safety: Dangerous Toys and the Role of America’s Civil System. http://www.justice.org/cps/rde/xbcr/justice/PlayingWithSafety.pdf Lawrence, A. T., & Weber, J. (2011). Business and Society: Stakeholder, ethics, public policy (13 Ed). New York. McGraw-Hill Companies Inc. Hartley, J. (2008). Natural News, Protecting Our Children from Toxic Toys. http://www.naturalnews.com/022991_toys_children_chemicals.html# U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. https://www.cpsc.gov/en/Regulations-Laws–Standards/Statutes/