April 23rd, 2009
Do toy manufacturers and kids equipment companies care about our children’s future? Based on new research just released by my organization, Climate Counts, the answer is no. I’m being overly harsh to make a point—climate change is toxic to our children’s future and is a safety issue as important as any we deal with as parents.
I believe there is no greater threat to my children’s future than the climate crisis, and I shudder to think about what their lives will be like if we all don’t start doing all we can to reducing the impact we have on carbon pollution now. We’ve been evaluating corporate action on climate change for over two years now, and we simply haven’t seen the kind of widespread consumer awakening on this issue that’s going to be necessary to move companies to take urgent action.
Since our launch in 2007, we have scored 106 companies across 13 different sectors, and the sector we released yesterday — the toy and children’s equipment sector — scored the absolute lowest. None of this sector’s companies scored greater than 40 (out of 100), and eight companies scored zero.
Certainly, the moms, dads, aunts, uncles and grandparents who purchase most of the toys and kids equipment aren’t going to stand idly by and let their choices continue to support companies that are turning a blind eye to this issue. Perhaps some of these low scoring companies are tackling other issues that parents are concerned about. Shouldn’t they be able to also address the climate crisis?
As a parent, I’m constantly being targeted by child equipment companies with new and safer models to buy (And I must say I’m always shocked by news that the car seats I comfortably used four years ago for my older kids are no longer safe today for my youngest! The steady flow of parents’ dollars to these companies is mind-boggling.). Safety is the primary selling point for the companies that make things like car seats, strollers, high chairs, and the like—with good reason, safety comes first when it comes to your kids. But the fact that these companies seem so concerned about some of the issues that consumers have raised is exactly the reason why I was so surprised when it became clear that the climate actions for the sector were so limited and, as a result, the climate scores for the sector’s companies were so dismal.
Shouldn’t solving the climate crisis be considered a safety issue for our kids?
At Climate Counts we look at, and score, what companies themselves are doing to address the climate crisis. The companies are scored on a 0-to-100 point scale based on 22 criteria that measure companies’ efforts to assess their own climate footprint, reduce their emissions, support (or block) progress on major climate legislation, and communicate their efforts clearly and comprehensively to consumers. You can view the detailed scores [http://www.climatecounts.org/scorecard_sectors.php?id=28].
We found that most of the big companies in the sector weren’t taking even the most basic step of measuring their own climate impact—but we do know there is innovation in the sector. Scores of smaller toy and children’s equipment makers are investing in green advances. Imagine if the largest companies – Mattel, Hasbro, Lego, Rubbermaid, Evenflo, Chicco, and more – were doing the same. There would be an extraordinary opportunity to educate consumers on the issue and build a long-term and lucrative relationship with the families who recognize that they must support companies that care about climate change.
As parents and consumers, we have the power to do something about the climate crisis. Most consumers by now understand that there are simple things we can do to reduce our own carbon footprint, many of us also understand our power to influence elected officials to pass strong climate policy—but we also have the power to influence companies to take action to reduce their climate impact.
We’ve found that companies are very responsive to consumers and I have no doubt that if these companies hear from parents and consumers that climate is a safety issue—they will respond by taking action. Each of the toy and children’s equipment companies we have scored has its own page on our site, and each of those pages has a way that you can send e-mail directly to the company to let them know how you feel – positively or negatively – about their Climate Counts score. Make your voice heard. It makes a difference.
This was our first time scoring this sector, so they deserve some time to get their act together and the time to hear from consumers. We’ll score them next year again and expect to see some real improvement.