Thursday, August 23, 2007

Mattel: Hindsight 20-20

I covered the case of Mattel on August 2nd - an article appeared in the New York Times a few days earlier that praised Mattel for avoiding major social and environmenal crises by having more control over suppliers since they were actully owned by Mattel outright.

But in the days and weeks that have followed the press has been overrun with stories about product safety scandals and guess who is right in the middle of the scrum? Mattel! The company has been hard hit with recalls of some of its highest profile products due to quality issues arising out of factories in China.

A blog reader pointed out the strange 'coincidence' that the positive article ran only days before the product safety expose. This inspired me to take a closer look at the situation. Sure enough, Mattel owns many of its suppliers in China and Indonesia. Its hard to tell if the factories that issued Barbie dolls with lead paint (presumably not part of the original specs!) are owned or not.

Here is a letter to the editor that my colleague Katherine submitted to the Financial Times today (not sure if it will get published):

Rather than avoiding purchasing products from China, consumers should push for greater transparency and accountability by companies sourcing from Chinese suppliers and from Chinese companies themselves. Sustainability reporting is integral to improving transparency and a valuable tool for companies who want to manage their economic, environmental, and social impacts.

If companies working in China want to differentiate themselves from those caught up in these scandals, they should be promoting their sustainable credentials through sustainability reports. As well as bringing many other internal and external benefits sustainability reporting using a globally recognized framework, such as the Global Reporting Initiative’s G3 Guidelines, can build customer confidence in a company’s brand, products and services and be used to mend the damaged “Made in China” brand.

I will let you know if it gets published!

7 comments:

Stephen said...

Who would have known that this issue would have blown up so much, with the series of successive recalls -- its definitely a hot topic and spurs interesting discussion.

One of the things I have been thinking about is whether Mattel deserves all the bad press. As you mentioned Mattel owns a large percentage of its suppliers in China. Furthermore, they have been responsible enough to issue a mass recall when they discovered a problem.

What about the other toy companies who have not issued a recall? After all, nearly all toys are made in China. What about the companies that don't own their supply chain and are not tracking such defects?

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