China: Investigation finds labour abuse & sexual harassment at toy factories producing for international brands; Includes company responses

In November 2019, labour rights NGO China Labour Watch released a report raising allegations of labour abuses faced by workers at five factories producing for international toy brands in Guangdong Province, China. Allegations include low wages, excessive overtime, inadequate health and safety protections, poor living conditions in worker dormitories, restrictions to freedom of association, discrimination, sexual harassment and gender-based violence.

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited the toy brands and factories named in the report to respond to the allegations. Basic Fun!, Buzz Bee Toys, Disney, fGTeev (Bonkers Toys), Hasbro, LEGO and Mattel responded and their responses can be found below. Melissa & Doug, MGA Entertainment, KD Group (Inspiration Works), Wah Tung (He Yuan), Dongguan KongXing Industry, Dongguan Wing Fai Foam Products, and Everfront Plastic & Electronics Manufacturing could not be reached or did not respond. 

The five toy factories investigated are ICTI Ethical Toy Program (IETP) Certified, while Mattel, Disney and LEGO are Buyer Members of IETP. IETP launched its own investigation into the allegations and found evidence of allegations in violation of the IETP standard in four of the five factories (excluding Foshan Nanhai Mattel Precision Diecasting). IETP's report detailing its' findings and explaining the follow-up work it is undertaking at each factory is linked below.

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14 February 2020

Ethical Toy Program says it looks forward to meeting NGOs to discuss issues raised in rejoinder

Author: ICTI Ethical Toy Program

... We appreciate the opportunity to further engage Toys Coalition Members on the outcomes of the Ethical Toy Program’s follow-up investigation and look forward to discussing the comments contained in your letter in more depth.

We confirm our meeting with Fair Toys Coalition members in Paris on Friday 20th March 2020 when we can further discuss these matters and share more information about our ongoing work to improve ethical standards at factories. We want to ensure members of the coalition have a good understanding of our operating methods and program impacts...

Download the full document here

NGO rejoinder
7 February 2020

NGO coalition responds to Ethical Toy Program inquiry, says 'fundamental flaws' in follow-up audits

Author: ActionAid, China Labor Watch, Christliche Initiative Romero, Solidar Suisse

... We recognise that IETP communicates the findings [of its follow-up investigation] quite openly and transparently but we have concerns regarding IETP's methods...

We are disappointed to see that many of the allegations in the report were not evidenced in IETP's follow-up audits... The coalition believes there are fundamental flaws in IETP's process of conducting third party audits, which do not effectively involve workers' voices, nor do they increase the accountability of purchasing companies...

Several allegations which were discovered were not identified as grievances due to non-compliance of IETP-standards with Chinese labor law...

Although IETP mentioned they would take steps to address several of our demands in their June 2019 letter to the Coalition, we did not see the results of these measures in our investigation, especially... [as] we have only investigated five of the other a thousand IETP certified factories this year...

[W]e... call on IETP to include a zero-tolerance policy on sexual harassment in the certification checklist...

Download the full document here

NGO rejoinder
4 February 2020

ActionAid's response to Mattel

Author: ActionAid France

ActionAid France and China Labor Watch are disappointed to see that many of the allegations in the report were not evidenced in IETP’s follow-up audits. But we are not surprised since we have pointed out repeatedly that third party audits have proven to be ineffective in uncovering many of the rights violations in the factories such as violations regarding the freedom of association, discrimination or gender based violences.

IETP’s standards are problematic since they do not align with Chinese Labor Laws. If IETP cannot even adhere to Chinese Labor Laws, this ultimately destroys the credibility of the certification program in being able to ensure that factories have ethical working conditions. In addition, China Labor Watch and ActionAid believe there are fundamental flaws in IETP’s process of conducting third party audits which do not effectively involve workers voices and fail to increase the accountability of purchasing companies.

More importantly, ActionAid France and China Labor Watch want to point out that Mattel’s participation in the IETP program does not offset its failure to respect human rights throughout its operations. This means Mattel should avoid causing or contributing to adverse human rights impacts through its own activities and address such impacts when they occur. Addressing human rights violations goes beyond merely asking IETP for an audit and requires taking adequate steps for prevention, mitigation and remediation.

ActionAid and China Labor Watch are particularly concerned this year by sexual harassment testimonies from many workers. We hope Mattel will take this issue very seriously and once again ask Mattel to make its sexual harassment policy public. In addition, ActionAid France and China labor Watch ask Mattel to provide detailed information on how the company ensure this policy is implemented throughout the supply chain.

[The full rejoinder in French can be found here]

7 January 2020

Ethical Toy Program follow-up investigation into allegations at certified factories

Author: ICTI Ethical Toy Program

"ICTI Ethical Toy Program response to China Labor Watch report – November 2019", 7 January 2020

... Upon receiving the CLW report, IETP immediately launched a follow-up investigation into the allegations at the five IETP Certified Factories. Our follow-up investigation included a review of each CLW allegation, an analysis of existing audit data, factory visits to investigate allegations, and follow-up meetings with factory management.... 

[E]ach of the factories involved cooperated fully with our investigation and stated their commitment to tackling the issues raised. Whilst our investigation did not find evidence to support many of the allegations made in the CLW report, some of the issues raised by CLW are valid and of concern to us. IETP is taking... steps to address issues identified and to ensure that sustained progress is made at each factory...

[The full report is attached]

Download the full document here

+ 日本語 - Hide

Author: ICTI倫理的玩具プログラム

[日本語翻訳記事提供: 経済人コー円卓会議日本委員会]

「中国労働監視報告書に対するICTI倫理玩具プログ​​ラムの対応– 2019年11月」2020年1月7日

... CLWレポートを受け取ったIETPは、5つのIETP認定工場での申し立てに対するフォローアップ調査をすぐに開始しました。フォローアップ調査には、CLWの各申し立てのレビュー、既存の監査データの分析、申し立てを調査するための工場訪問、工場管理者とのフォローアップ会議が含まれていました。

関係する各工場は、調査に全面的に協力し、提起された問題への取り組みに対するコミットメントを表明しました。調査では、CLWレポートで行われた多くの申し立てを裏付ける証拠は見つかりませんでしたが、CLWによって提起された問題のいくつかは有効であり、懸念事項です。 IETPは...特定された問題に対処し、各工場で持続的な進歩を確実に実現するための措置を講じています...

Read the full post here

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Company response
3 January 2020

Mattel's response

Author: Mattel

“Mattel is committed to ensuring every single person making our toys and products is treated fairly, with respect, and is able to work in a safe and healthy environment. Following the China Labor Watch report issued in November 2019, we requested the ICTI Ethical Toy Program (IETP) immediately look into the claims which pertain to Foshan Nanhai Mattel Precision Diecasting Co., Ltd (MFC). IETP conducted its investigation on December 3-4, 2019 and concluded that MFC is in full compliance with the IETP Audit Checklist. Mattel is committed to a strong safety culture and is reviewing IETP’s report to determine the steps that can be taken to improve workplace safety, including for example, enhancing communication of the safety training that is available to employees both in the classroom and workshop.”

Company response
31 December 2019

Disney's response

Author: Disney

... In response to the recent allegations made by CLW, we coordinated with the Ethical Toy Program (ETP) to conduct a full investigation... at these five facilities... [W]hile results vary by facility, auditors confirmed that in some cases the facilities were failing to meet the requirements and expectations of ETP and Disney’s International Labor Standards (ILS) Program... Once the ETP investigation reports are finalized, Disney will notify our licensees and vendors using these facilities of the specific violations of our ILS Program requirements...

In accordance with Disney’s ILS Program, these facilities, and the licensees using them, will have the opportunity to remediate labor standards violations within a specified timeframe and remain authorized to produce Disney-branded product in a manner consistent with our expectations. If the facilities choose not to remediate or fail to do so effectively, their authorization to produce Disney-branded product will be revoked...

[The full response is attached]

Download the full document here

Company response
13 December 2019

Basic Fun!'s response

Author: Basic Fun!

... [W]e take any allegations seriously and will immediately send our in-house compliance team to personally assess a situation.

Upon our assessment, we were able to quickly determine which allegations were unsupported and which allegations required our immediate attention. In conjunction with the factory and our staff, we orchestrated a Corrective Action Plan that requires weekly communication and follow up with all stakeholders until all issues have been resolved.

We will continue to work with the factory in order to enhance their internal procedures and ensure our vendor has a focused management team with clear direction to abide by all compliance regulations. The factory acknowledges the consequences of their actions if they fail to comply with our requirements, up to and including, jeopardizing our business relationship...

[The full response is attached]

Download the full document here

Company response
13 December 2019

Buzz Bee Toys' response

Author: Buzz Bee Toys

I [Operation Manager of Buzz Bee Toys] performed a factory visit for Wah Tung during 11-12/Dec, I learned that some brand owners such as Li&Fung/Disney including IETP also conducted on-site investigation on the factory, and related problems disclosed in attached report have been improved. I also talked with their senior management of the factory, and requested them to respond actively for mentioned problems and conduct factory audit from third party to prove their improvment... 

Company response
12 December 2019

Hasbro's response

Author: Hasbro

...Hasbro conducted an immediate investigation and determined that production of products for Hasbro or our licensees was occurring in two (2) of the five (5) named factories: Everfront and Dongguan Kongxing. Following a rigorous review of recent oversight audits and on-the-ground engagement at both factories, we have determined that the majority of the CLW allegations were unsubstantiated or have been remediated.

As with all of our third-party facilities, we continue to work closely with these factories to elevate working conditions and human rights, including monthly in-person training sessions re: important issues such as overtime hours, effective worker communication channels, protection of female workers, enhancements to dormitories, and worker well-being.

[The full response is attached]

Download the full document here