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Opinion: Peter Jenkinson and the sustainability of play

This week’s industry opinion comes from Toyologist and industry expert, Peter Jenkinson who talks us through his observations of sustainability in the toy industry following this year’s Toy Fair season.

Without doubt the biggest effect on the planet over the past couple of years has been that of the Attenborough… David Attenborough that is, and the BBC documentary featuring choking turtles that awakened the woke which pervades all of media everyday.

Raising awareness is imperative of course; those in denial about any correlation between what the expansion of the human race has done with its industrialisation is frankly futile, offer any kid under the age of ten a plastic straw for a response from the front line.

It is the grown-ups who are armed with the science but the kids feeding straight-talking feelings about what they’re doing/have done to the planet they’re inheriting, and so our industry should be at the forefront of change when it comes to making changes.

Both product and packaging have been net non-bio-degradable plastic contributors from Toyland for far too long; the latter a culprit that could have been dealt with swiftly and well before all of this Greta inspired backlash took hold. We cannot expect anything to happen at lightning speed, yet the Danish brick maker’s efforts to do so has been fairly swift, their packaging by 2025 and all product by 2030 will be sustainably sourced.

This time-frame allows time for a responsible shift to sustainability rather than one executed to adhere to media demands and gain column inches, and other outfits are joining in, albeit in a smaller scale. Some are creating new specific “green SKU’s”  to grab attention and be part of the narrative, some just quietly reducing the waste in their packaging so as not to gain any negative publicity from a hungry headline grabbing journalist keen to exploit SEO and invite over-inflamed online commentary from readers.

We’ve an ever increasing number of start-ups in the green toy sector aka “disruptors” and, for me, it’s these folk who are doing it best, but presently getting the least “likes”. The innovation of these companies is rooted in creating good toys that tick more than just the sustainable box, most of them create outstanding play patterns that fall into the ever popular STEM circuit.

Their products cost a little more, certainly, but in an age where “padding the present pile” is very much out of favour, the considered purchase is increasingly likely to gravitate toward these brands.

A few of these will likely be snapped up soon enough as subsidiary brands by the established outfits, they’d be well advised to keep on founders on after any exit to ensure their ideas permeate throughout entire organisations.

I would, in a heartbeat, set up a kid focused VC fund and snaffle up all the best start-ups I’ve seen this year across the Toy Fair scene, without their innovation the toy scene will be a poorer place.

Am thinking Attenborough Asset management – Think David will mind?

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