The sustainability of Clementoni: “We must get consumers to realise the intrinsic value of toys”

It’s a challenge that Clementoni has presented to the toy industry, and one to rise to before the ‘small window of opportunity’ disappears entirely: Get consumers to realise the intrinsic value of toys and games to society, or suffer a catastrophic loss in the fight for a sustainable future.

Clementoni has labelled the window of time to make a difference as ‘extremely narrow’ in response to both the global toy industry and world population’s strategy towards tackling climate change, plastic waste and ushering in the era of eco-sustainability for future generations.

In conversation with ToyNews, Clementoni’ chief marketing officer, Enrico Santarelli, stated that while action taken by international organisations to battle the planet’s sustainability crisis is ‘all well and good’, but that its fundamentally the brands that ‘are most on the consumers’ radar’ that ought to be accountable.

“Everything hinges on our ability to relaunch the social dimension of toys and games and get people to rediscover their intrinsic value to society,” Santarelli told ToyNews. “Toys and games have been treated like any other product for too long, including by manufacturers themselves.”

At the end of this September, Clementoni was named among the winners of the Toy Industries of Europe’s inaugural Play for Change awards in the Environmental Sustainability category for its popular Sequence Puzzle range, a selection of young years puzzles made from sustainably sourced and recycled materials. The range is just part of a mission that Clementoni has been on for a number of years to ‘make sure that new generations grow up with a greater sense of awareness’ of the world around them.

Here, ToyNews catches up with Clementoni’s chief marketing officer, Enrico Santarelli is find out more about the company’s approach and future plans for the sustainability movement and its efforts to better the future for the next generation.

Hello Enrico, congratulations on the Play for Change awards win. To kick us off, can you talk us through the efforts you guys have made in the sustainability movement in recent months and years?

As producers of educational toys and games, we have always strongly felt that it is our responsibility to make sure that new generations grow up with a greater sense of awareness. And this is why, some time ago, we set up two main workstreams: (1) identifying new play themes that will usher the issue of sustainability into the homes of our little customers in a fun way and (2) rethinking our production chain in order to reduce the impact of our toys and games on the environment.

Why has this been such an important drive for you guys? How do you hope that the efforts you make now will encourage children to carry that message with them as they develop, grow older and apply it to world and environment themselves? 

Appropriate action by individual states and international organisations is all well and good, of course, but we are convinced that what really matters is that those brands mostly on consumers’ radar become accountable: “small part, big impact” – this is the concept that drives us every day. And new play experiences with up-to-date contents, materials, etc. are the best way to familiarise children with these issues.

Do you think the toy industry is doing enough to drive this sustainability movement across all aspects, from manufacturing and materials sourcing to the messaging of the brands themselves and the circular economy?

There can be no doubt that the whole sector is steadily moving in the direction of a more sustainable production and supply chain. Numerous statements have been made and stances have been taken by all those involved in the industry, regardless of rank and size. But, timing is of the essence. Although levels of awareness have clearly been raised across the board, it is equally apparent that the window of time to make a difference is extremely narrow.

Given the direct impact on children and the future change makers, how seriously is the toy industry taking its role?

Everything hinges on our ability to relaunch the social dimension of toys and games and get people to rediscover their intrinsic value to society. Toys and games have been treated like any other product for too long (including by manufacturers themselves). But there is a difference. A game or toy is a vital tool which helps children to grow alongside their families: as our founder Mario Clementoni used to say: “playing is a serious game” and this axiom guides our actions every day and takes on special relevance with issues like sustainability and the environment.

What are the biggest changes you’ve noticed in the sustainability movement over the past year or two? How is this encouraging your own efforts now? What can be done to speed the process up?

First of all, the families that we deal with (the Millennials) are acutely conscious of environmental issues and they translate whatever is going on in society into purchasing behaviour. However, our supply chain, which is made up of raw-material producers, has been working in the right direction for some time now.

All of this fires our strategies, although these strategies could be further driven if there was greater cooperation in terms of the ecosystems of companies along the business value chain.

What’s the next step or the ongoing plans you have for the movement now?

One step at a time, we are working to broaden our line-up of eco-sustainable products. It is our belief that good behaviour is “contagious” and so filling stores (both physical and digital) with products bearing the Play for Future leaf should act as a strong catalyst for the entire sector.

In the course of (almost) over 60 years of business, we have learnt how to talk to children and parents, so we want to speed up communication around this area, proposing up-to-date content and fresh points of view that will help families to make the changeover to environmental sustainability.

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