Mattel and Social Responsibility

Mattel and Social Responsibility

BUS 250

Corporate and Social Responsibility

Mattel and Social Responsibility

How Mattel acted in a socially responsible and ethical manner in regards to the safety of their toys in the toy recall of 2007. Should the toys that needed to be recalled ever have made it to store shelves? What are the difficulties when it comes to using factories as subcontractors in other countries? Did Mattel do everything in their power to make sure dangerous toys never made it to store shelves? Who is ultimately responsible for the fact that children were exposed to potentially dangerous toys, Mattel or government regulators? The most important question that has to be asked is what does Mattel plan on doing to make sure this does not happen again. These are all questions that were asked of Mattel during the 2007 toy recalls, and Mattel was expected to answer them all.

“At Mattel, we believe in the power of play and the crucial link between play and a child’s learning and development. Through play, children develop social, emotional, and physical skills while they pretend, imagine and dream” (Mattel Inc., 2018, Philanthropy). Mattel realizes the important impact they as a company can have on children through their toys and it is not a fact that Mattel takes lightly. They strive to make sure that they are having a positive impact on children and families by providing them with safe, quality products for them to enjoy.

When a problem was found with their products Mattel was very quick to do the best they could to make sure that the safety of children and families was not jeopardized by their products. The CEO of Mattel at the time Robert Eckert was quick to get ahead of the issue and make sure people were aware of the problem with some of their toys. According to Eckert (as cited in Lipton, 2007) “The safety of children is our primary concern, and we are deeply apologetic to everyone affected,” said Mattel Chief Executive Officer Robert A. Eckert. “Mattel has rigorous procedures, and we will continue to be vigilant and unforgiving in enforcing quality and safety. We don’t want to have recalls, but we don’t hesitate to take quick and effective action to correct issues as soon as we’ve identified them to ensure the safety of our products and the safety of children.”

This shows that Mattel is more than willing to not only correct the problem they found but to make sure that the consumers and stakeholders in this situation were fully aware of the problem. The prominent stakeholders which in this case are Mattel, the factories making the toys, the suppliers for the factories, and most importantly the families that are purchasing the toys for their children.

Unfortunately for Mattel only two weeks later they would have to make another announcement about a separate issue they found with some of their other products. “In a double-barreled announcement, the company said it was recalling 436,000 Chinese-made die-cast toy cars depicting the character Sarge from the animated film “Cars” because they are covered with lead paint. At the same time, the toy maker said it was recalling 18.2 million other toys because their small, powerful magnets could harm children if swallowed. The magnetized toys were also made in China, but they followed a Mattel design specification” (Story-Barboza, 2007, para. 2). This was a hard hit for Mattel because they had just tried to get ahead of the last problem with lead paint and now they were dealing with a different issues of magnets all within three weeks.

After another setback for Mattel on such an epic scale how are we still supposed to believe that Mattel is acting in a socially responsible manner? It is simple; once again they got out in front of the issue and didn’t try to hide it. “No system is perfect,” Robert A. Eckert, Mattel’s chairman and chief executive, said in a conference call. “There’s no guarantee that we will not be here again” (Story-Barboza, 2007, para. 10).

Should the toys that needed to be recalled ever have made it to store shelves? Making sure those toys never made it to store shelves was the primary concern for Mattel at this point. “Mattel says it prevented more than two-thirds of the 967,000 affected toys from reaching consumers by stopping the products in its distribution centers and contacting retailers, like Wal-Mart, Target and Toys ‘R’ Us, late last week” (Story, 2007, para 4). In a perfect world none of the toys would have made it to store shelves once they realized there was a problem. They were not able to prevent all the toys from getting to retailers but they did stop a significant number.

Once Mattel realized that some of the toys had been purchased by consumers the next problem they tackled was making sure that consumers knew about the recall and what to do. They placed ads on the Internet in high-traffic sites such as to redirect owners of the affected product to the Mattel website for more information. “Mattel’s recall Web site is a model of excellence. All the affected products are depicted and clear instructions are provided on how to return recalled products (including downloadable application forms and shipping mailers), which suggests strong contingency planning” (Quelch, 2007, para 6). Throughout this process Mattel has been doing everything it can to get out in front of the issue and putting the safety and well being of those affected first. In my opinion they did a very good job keeping everyone informed and were consistently concerned with the issues of the dangerous product rather than doing everything possible to hide it.

What are the difficulties when it comes to using factories as subcontractors in other countries? Some of the issues that Mattel was having with the manufacturing of their products were because of all the contracting and sub contracting they were doing with factories in China. Mattel did their own investigations on why their toys were being made with the wrong materials in an attempt to figure out where exactly the problem was. “Mattel requires the factories it contracts with to use paint and other materials provided by certified suppliers. Mattel executives said they did not know if the contract manufacturer substituted paint from a noncertified supplier or if a certified supplier cause the problem” (Story, 2007, para 16). There is a lot of pressure on Chinese manufacturers form American and European companies to produce products at a low cost which makes it tempting to use shortcuts and lower quality material to increase profits.

Because Mattel contracts out to other countries and manufacturers it is very difficult to keep everyone on the same page in regards to the many rules that each country has on products that are imported and exported. There are guidelines that are supposed to be followed by both countries but we have seen in the past that not all of them are followed and it has been difficult to make sure that all of them are. Who is ultimately responsible for all the companies involved and who decides what rules are in place for importing and exporting? It is the responsibility of each individual company to make sure that they are following the rules and does not fall solely on the shoulders of Mattel Inc.

It is the responsibility of Mattel to ensure that they are following all the rules in regards to the manufacturing of toys and other products, and they have many policies in place to try and do just that. They have safety checks that internally audit the their facilities to make sure only quality materials are being used in addition to safe practices. Third party independent audits are also used to make sure that everything is being done correctly. Unfortunately even though Mattel had these practices in place they were unable to prevent either one of these recalls.

Who is ultimately responsible for the fact that children were exposed to potentially dangerous toys, Mattel or government regulators? “Mattel is hardly the first manufacturer to encounter a breakdown in the Chinese production chain. In recent months, factories in China have been sources of poisonous pet food sold in stores in the United States, dangerous car tires, and lead paint on the popular Thomas & Friends wooden toys” (Story, 2007, Para 5). This shows that the problem is not only limited to Mattel and the toys that they manufacture but it is a much larger issue.

Because of all the issues with Chinese manufacturers the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) requested more money from Congress so that they could better handle the steadily increasing amount of issues. “The CPSC, too, has come under fire. Its staff has steadily dropped from almost 800 employees in 1974 to an all-time low of about 400 employees now” (Mattel CEO admits it could have done better job, 2007).

The Chinese government also made step in the right direction to try and help with the continued problems by signing an agreement that prohibits the use of lead paint on toys exported to the United States. These are all steps in the right direction but there is still more steps that can be taken by manufactures to ensure that toys and other products are safe for children and their families.

Many toy manufacturers including Mattel, Walt Disney Co. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. RC2 Corp. and Hasbro Inc. have started to implement their own safety-testing standards and have come up with new and improved measures to make sure products are safer for consumers. The Toy Industry Association has also expressed support for congressional efforts to impose mandatory safety testing standards. These are all good steps being taken by both governments and their agencies to help with the problem, along with the manufacturers themselves.

What about the other shareholders who are involved in this situation specifically the families and households that were and still are being affected by these issues. As parents, family members and members of society purchasing these products for our children what can we be doing to help ensure that these rules and regulations are put in place and followed? Especially in the United States we have a voice and as we have learned over the last five weeks there are many options we can use. We can make sure that the problems with these products are brought to life and we can make sure they are talked about and demand that safe practices be put in place for the goods that are allowed to be imported. We can use tools like petitions, bring up our concerns to our local congressmen and do our part to make sure that our concerns are brought up and handled appropriately.

In the end does some of the blame for the potentially dangerous products fall on Mattel, yes I think it does. I also think that they did act socially responsibly in the way they handled the situation and did not try to hide it. They found a problem, admitted to it and tried to find a solution. They did not hide from their responsibility and owned up to their mistakes. They have continued to work with other toy manufacturers and both governments to come up with new checks and balances to ensure that they make a safe product. By Mattel being willing to continue to come up with new ideas and find new ways to improve their products and the products of the industry. I feel that they were being socially responsible with their toys and trust that they will continue to be so.


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Quelch, J. (2007, August 27) Working Knowledge. Harvard Business School. Retrieved from