7 July 2006
Hong Kong Cares(HKTDC Toys & Games , Vol 02,2006)
ICTI Asia Ltd
|Some 650 toy factories are now complying with the CARE programme requirements|
Hong Kong toymakers with factories on the Chinese mainland have emerged as pacesetters in introducing upgraded conditions in the workplace, covering not only higher safety standards but better conditions regarding work hours and benefits.
That is the belief of CARE Foundation president Christian Ewert, who also credits Hong Kong with spreading the CARE (Caring, Aware, Responsible and Ethical) message to the mainland, where most of the world's toys are manufactured.
The Hong Kong Toys Council quickly offered its support for the CARE programme, originally set up by the International Council of Toy Industries (ICTI), the global association of toy manufacturers.
Ewert says the Hong Kong Toys Council continues to play an influential role in the success of its ground-breaking programme on the Chinese mainland, which carries with it the CARE certification of compliance.
"The Hong Kong Toys Council has been supportive from the beginning, and was also involved with the content of the ground document and the country-specific document for the Chinese mainland. In fact, Hong Kong has been our ambassador to help carry our message to factories on the mainland as many of them are owned by Hong Kong-based companies. Without the support of the council we would not have accomplished as much as we have done over the past two years."
So far, he says, 650 toy factories - with an average of 1,400 workers each - are complying with the programme. "This means that about 900,000 workers are working in conditions that meet our standards, face fair compensation with no excessive overtime and benefit from safety in the workplace," he adds.
Ewert points out that it was logical to launch the CARE programme on the mainland as 75% of toys manufactured globally come from the "Chinese factory of the world."
He says that the CARE programme is also expanding to the Americas and Europe - especially Eastern Europe, where there is a significant manufacturing base.
Formed in 1974, ICTI is an alliance of 19 national toy associations from around the world. Ewert says ICTI is more than a traditional industry spokesman and lobbyist as it promises to "advance social responsibility with programmes to address environmental concerns, fair and lawful employment practices and workplace safety."
According to Ewert, part of the challenge in the past two years has been to involve all toy brands in the CARE programme. "They are our key drivers to demand that sourcing bases and suppliers be compliant with our standards. However, we firmly believe our standards are voluntary. We see more and more factories joining our programme, so it becomes difficult for other factories if they don't join in."
Reinforcing Ewert's view is Jeffrey Lam, chairman of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council's Toys Advisory Committee.
"The Hong Kong toy industry has unhesitatingly thrown its support behind the CARE programme, and the enlightened ethical principles that CARE stands for, particularly regarding safety in the workplace and a healthy working environment," Lam asserts.
"Because of Hong Kong's involvement in the toy industry on the mainland, local manufacturers owning or operating factories there have been at pains to ensure that workers have benefited from these higher standards," he adds.
"In addition to upgraded conditions in the workplace, factories adhering to the principles of CARE also undertake to provide fair compensation and, at the other end of the scale, not to force excessive overtime onto their staff."
Lam states that a safe and healthy workplace means a happy workforce, and a happy workforce is more efficient thanks to the higher all-round morale and working spirit.
"Upwards of about one million workers in the mainland's toys industry now enjoy better workplace conditions thanks to Hong Kong manufacturers embracing the CARE standards. Accordingly, when would-be buyers from America to Austria and from France to Finland inspect these toys, they have the comfort and assurance of knowing that they were made in factories complying with CARE standards."
More details on Hong Kong support for ethical toy makers can be found online at http://webcast.tdctrade.com/060419_01/ e.htm>=20, while information on the International Council of Toy Industries will be found at http://www.toy-icti.org/>=20
WRITTEN BY GEOFFREY SOMERS
ICTI Asia Ltd