Mattel and Disney under pressure again for Human and Labour rights violation

According to a resent study done by Sacom is the toys produced by Disney and Mattel who also make the Barbie dolls produced under poor working conditions. This is not the first time that Mattel in specific have been under scrutiny on their ethics.

A Chinese factory that produces, among other Disney characters, Fisher Price toys, Barbie dolls, have been accused of using child labor, toxic chemicals and to push employees to illegal overtime.

These claims have been put forward by the Hong Kong-based human rights organization Sacom who has studied the working conditions at the factory Sturdy Products.

The factory, located in Shenzhen city, has more than 6,000 people on the payroll, and according to the survey, employees were among other things pressured to work 120 hours extra a month.

In addition, they must work for a salary far below minimum wage, and earlier this year one of the employees, a 45-year-old woman, committed suicide after several supervisors had yelled at her.

Among the accusations that is made by Sacom are:

■ The employment of a 14-year-old. Staff also reported the presence of other child workers, according to the investigator.

■ Routine excessive overtime. Employees produced a “voluntary” document they said they had to sign agreeing to work beyond the maximum overtime legal limit of 36 hours a month, along with wage slips that suggested they were averaging 120 hours of overtime a month.

■ A harsh working environment in which workers complained of mistreatment by management. One worker injured on the production line was shouted at and ordered back to work despite needing medical treatment.

■ Concerns about the chemicals in use and poor ventilation. Employees claimed three workers had fallen ill. They said they had to hide pots of adhesive and thinners during audits of the factory by its client companies.

■ They also claimed that they were paid by the factory to give misleading answers during audits and that they were fined for failing to hit targets. The calculation of wages for different workers was described by Sacom as arbitrary.

Disney and Wall Mart are prone to take action

As this is not the first time that the big retailers Mattel and Wal-Mart is under pressure to get more control over their supply chain.

“We take reports like this very seriously and we will implement a corrective action plan if our investigations confirm any of the findings,” said Wal-Mart spokeswoman Megan Murphy told the South China Morning Post

“As soon as we learned of the suicide at the Sturdy Products Factory, we immediately launched an investigation.”

According to the Human rights group was Wal-Mart also in contact with the International Council of Toy Industries (ICTI), a trade association that certifies legal compliance and decent working conditions in toy factories worldwide, which was pursuing a separate investigation.

Winson, who owns Sturdy Products, According to The Guardian newspaper declined to comment on the new report from Sacom. But the study has however shaken Disney Group, and supermarket chain Walmart, which sells some of the products being produced at the factory.

Disney said in a statement that they “always take cases dealing with licensees and business partners very seriously” and that the group, will now “evaluate the situation” from the information they have available. Wall Mart, which has more than 8,500 giant stores around the world have decided to, launched an independent investigation of working conditions.

This and other instances where factories in China or some of the other market in Asia have been monitored using different types of codes just shows the limits of what these can do for business when it comes down to running the everyday business. Big companies in the developed world can implement and make supply chain partners sign as many Codes of Conduct or Ethics as they want to if it is not followed by real action it will mount to little more than window-dressing.

The best of the best in Responsible Performance or what…

The Corporate Responsibility top 100 list have just been issued ranking companies for 2011, according to their performance within a wide range of indicators ranging from Environmental, Employee Relations, to financial and governance issues.

The top five are:
1. Johnsons Controls inc. (Engineering)
2. Campbell Soup Co. (Food)
3. International Business Machines Corp. (Tech.)
4 Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. (Pharmaceutical)
5 Mattel, Inc. (Toys)

What puzzles me is that Mattel made it so far up the list considering their track record within a wide range of CSR related issues.

Mattel offers its products under various brands, including well-known ones like Barbie, Polly Pocket, Hot Wheels, Matchbox, Fisher-Price, Sesame Street, Dora the Explorer, Winnie the Pooh and Power Wheels. The company also publishes activity books and magazines and sells its products to many different types of retailers, from freestanding toy stores to department stores. It also markets products on the Internet, including its own website.

Most of its production is conducted in Asia and Latin America, where there have been a long record of different forms of violation in the areas of Labour Rights, Human Rights and other ethical concerns. I have compiled a list of some of the cases that they have had for the last decade or so. For example is Mattel according to the CR list number 10 within Human and 46 within Employee relations but I guess that the Mattel supply chain is not taken into consideration when the evaluated the company performance. Judge for your self…

Health and Safety

Mattel agreed to a $12 million settlement for safety hazards posed by the 2 million recalled toys between August and October of 20…
— GreenBiz, 12/16/2008
In August 2007, Mattel recalled 9 million of its toys due to hazards such as magnets that can become unattached and swallowed by …
— CNN, 08/14/2007
The Consumer Product Safety Committee listed Mattel’s Batman Batmobile toy vehicle as one of its 10 Hazardous Recalled Toys for 20…
— PR Newswire, 11/22/2004
According to Public Interest Research Group’s 2003 Survey of Company Policies on Phthalates, Hasbro “did not respond to requests f…
— Public Interest Research Group, 01/01/2003
In June 2001, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) fined Mattel’s Fisher-Price division $1.1 million for failing to repor…
— New York Times, 06/07/2001
In February 2001, it was revealed that as many as 13,000 workers from Mattel’s former View-Master division in Beaverton Oregon mig…
— Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 02/21/2001

Human Rights
New York City Comptroller William Thompson Jr. filed shareholder resolutions with 11 corporations urging greater efforts to end human rights abuses by overseas suppliers..
— Crain’s NY Business, 02/08/2006
The Lungcheong Toy Factory in Dongguan, China employs 3,000 workers and supplies battery-operated toy cars and trucks to Mattel an…
— National Labor Committee, 12/01/2005
Mattel’s operations in China made it one of the targets of the National Labor Committee’s “Toys of Misery” report which demands th…
— National Labor Committee, 01/01/2002

Ethics and Governance
According to SEC filings, Mattel CEO, Robert A. Eckert, was paid $5,994,559 in total compensation for 2006.…
— AFL-CIO, 02/17/2007
Mattel received a score of 88 out of 100 on the 2006 Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index.…
— Human Rights Campaign, 09/19/2006
In June 2002, when unionized west coast dock workers began striking for preservation of their healthcare benefits, increase in th…
— CorpWatch, 01/02/2003
We urge you and the Mattel company to immediately address and correct violations of illegal scheduling…
–China Labor Watch, 29/10/2009
This week Mattel recalled nearly two million Chinese-made toys over concerns they contain excessive levels of lead paint and loose parts…
–London Evening standard, 15/08/2007
Dozens of people were injured when more than 1,000 workers rioted in protest of the poor working conditions at the Merton factory …
— China Labor Watch, 07/27/2006
A 2005 report by China Labor Watch titled, “The Toy Industry in China: Undermining Workers’ Rights and Rule of Law,” highlights th…
— China Labor Watch, 09/01/2005
A Rubies factory in Tepeji del Rio, Mexico is being investigated for violating child labor laws at its garment facility which prod…
— Financial Times, 05/22/2005