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Corporate Social Responsibility: Mattel’s 2007 Toy Recall

Paper Type: Free Assignment Study Level: University / Undergraduate
Wordcount: 3001 words Published: 26th Feb 2020

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Many questioned themselves about desired methods the public can apply to keep children safe. The community should be informed and conscious of the items purchased for children. Society has a responsibility as advocates for children and should make sure that toy manufacturers take note of safety standards and regulations. Mattel is recognized as the world’s biggest toy manufacturer having created some favorite toys in the market that children use. Nonetheless, since 2007, Mattel has been a victim of a series of safety recalls. Among their largest recalls to have been recorded is when their products were found to have lead paints and powerful magnets that could be swallowed by young children. It is evident Mattel never acted in an ethical and socially responsible manner it could have taken better steps in preventing the recurrent recalls.

Did Mattel Act in a Socially Responsible and Ethical Manner

Retailers and parents are significant stakeholders of toy manufacturers. Parents should have the ability to put their trust in the manufacturers with their children. Similarly, retailers should also have the capability to put their faith in the manufacturers so that they can be in full confidence of the products they sell. No company would want to go through recalls; this creates a negative impact on their business reputation, some of which many companies have not been successful in overcoming. Recalls can compel a company out of business as a result of reduced revenue and lack of sales. In 2007, Mattel had suffered a total of twelve safety recalls, the last one occurring on October 25th, 2007, for Go Diego Go toys after it was established that it had lead-based paint. In 2007, more than eighty percent of toys being sold globally were being manufactured in China. During this time, almost fifty percent of Mattel’s production was manufactured in plants owned by the company. On August 2nd, 2007, Mattel’s Fisher-Price division had a recall for one and half million preschool toys attributing characters like Elmo, Big Bird, and Dora the Explorer due to lead paint (Freedman, Kearney, and Lederman, 2012). If young children were to consume and ingest the lead paint, it could cause them to develop permanent brain damage. A second recall was issued on August 14, 2007, due to the hazards of magnets, this recall included over nineteen million toys that were distributed worldwide. The concerns over lead paint and magnets in the toys made in China led the company to have increased recalls. One million toys in Canada produced by Mattel were also recalled. On September 4th, 2007, Mattel experienced three additional recalls of toys that were all made in China factories. The toys were known to have elevated amounts of lead paint. After further assessments of the recalls mentioned above, it is easy to note that about twenty million toys recalled by Mattel over the one-month duration. One million toys were recalled because of the lead paint, and the other reason was due to a manufacturing problem. Equally, almost eighteen million of the toys recalled globally were because of small magnets coming off of the toys. If in any case, it occurred that a young child swallows these magnets, they could end up developing potential intestinal perforations, blockages or infections that could be severe. It is evident that the decision to have attractions in the toys was reached upon by the Mattel design engineers. There is a clear indication the defect was not a subcontractor, contractor, or manufacturing problem; the defect was caused by the internal design engineering unit of Mattel. It has since been evident that Mattel placed a lot of stress on the media, focusing on the lead paint problem rather than tackling the internal design problem. This was neither an ethical nor socially responsible thing to do.

What Mattel Should or Could Have Done In A Different Way

Mattel went through a string of recalls, but it could still do some things differently to stay away from the recalls, precisely because the recalls could have severe damages to their notoriety. Despite its thinking and method of operation, Mattel still had test protocols that were incompetent and incomplete since they were not able to notice the magnets falling off from the toys they manufactured. Mattel could carry out independent testing which would benefit it since it would assure them that they bring products that are safe (Johnson, 2001). The test procedures should also have incorporated product hazards review which would help in identifying potential hazards for the products and cases initiated based on the dangers. This would assist Mattel in identifying potential problems with the magnets and make changes to their products before their production. Mattel could also ensure that their suppliers provided the explicit materials which were required for their products and conduct tests at the facilities of their suppliers. Instead of just bringing a person to perform unannounced and occasional inspections, the company could have had a person at their supplier’s place at all times to monitor the activities of their suppliers. According to Hammond & Christensen, “sustainable businesses have a unique relationship with suppliers and customers” (Sec 1.5, para 7). Since Mattel is one of the world’s biggest toy producers, Mattel should have made sure that it created revenue that it would dedicate to supplier facilities and ensure that they are receiving the quality of services that they paid for. Mattel could also profit from a formal agreement which has legal reviews including language setting so that they can effectively lay out their expectations from their suppliers and the effects of not fulfilling the requirements. This formal agreement would benefit Mattel by allowing the company’s on-site representative to establish some goods that do not conform to their expectations and requirements because there would be occurrences of where products do not meet the required specifications. Mattel chose to carry out its manufacturing activities overseas in China. Due to the many offices and multiple operations the company had, they developed difficulties in monitoring their day to day activities. After Mattel shifted their core operations overseas, it ended up lacking the required personnel to make sure that the desired quality was being achieved (Sethi et al., 2011). Mattel, therefore, should have made sure that it had specialized people in place to provide effective accountability to all its products. These employees could play a huge role in keeping close monitoring of the supply chain, particularly after establishing the history of China.

Who was Responsible for Children Being Exposed to Dangerous Toys?

Mattel is to take the blame and general responsibility as it did not incorporate effective inspection and testing systems that could help it in routinely enforcing compliance. Western companies that are located in China were running in environments that are lawless. There were less active regulation procedures and slight resort to law. As a result, Western companies operating businesses in China need to ensure that they carry out a useful legwork and be watchful on the suppliers that they choose. The manufacturing related problems were said to be caused by lack of time and money; they opted not to manufacture their products to the minimum standards of Mattel so that they could save money and satisfy the manufacturing deadlines. External vendors and their respective sub-contractors in China also skimped to save on money and time. Lead-based paint was known to be thirty percent cheaper and supposed to be aesthetically more affluent and even more comfortable to put on. Most of the toys had also been recalled since it was evident that the magnet falling off from the toys was because of the product’s design and not their manufacturing elements. In the long run, Mattel replaced the model of the toys so that the toy would be safer for children. In 2007 Mattel created a code of conduct policy that was called, “Global Manufacturing Principles,” which provided guidance and standards for all manufacturing, operations and distribution centers. Additionally, Mattel necessitated that its vendors purchase their paints from certified suppliers. Mattel also made attempts to assess the colors they were going to use to ensure that there was strict compliance with the standards that they had established. Supposedly, Mattel carried out inspections on their vendors and certified suppliers to instill strict compliance. At that time, most toy companies had been acquiring their products from China for more than twenty years. Consequently, this meant that they were aware of the precise surroundings to anticipate in China. Despite that Mattel had instilled plans to support the prospects of their policy of conduct, requirements, rules, and regulations; they never had a strong advocate to champion the implementation of obedience to the plan which made sure that there was product safety. It is therefore evident that Mattel was arrogant to its rules and regulations. Since it never showed a full and true commitment to putting into effect compliance, this manifested how it is negligent. It also made the industry, companies, and most significantly, young children exposed to harmful products. Furthermore, at the time of all the recalls, Mattel succeeded in placing attention on the supply chain and Chinese manufacturing issues as the leading cause, despite that the main problem arose from its manufacturing design division. As the years progressed, when strict safety testing procedures by private labs were compulsory, Mattel still succeeded in evading outside testing. In 2009, it was mandatory for clothing manufacturers, toy makers, and other companies selling children’s products to submit samples to private laboratories for safety tests (Becker, Edwards, Massey, 2010). Nonetheless, Mattel, the world’s biggest toy maker, was not mandated to comply with the same. It was not until recently when Mattel was granted permission by the Consumer Product Safety Commission to use its private laboratories for testing. The laboratory tests were mandated, thanks to a law passed by the Congress in the summer of 2008 following many recalls due to the toys that were contaminated with lead. Mattel including one of its subsidiaries, Fisher-Price which produced six of the toys. The law that was passed put in place stern restrictions for lead, lead paint, and chemicals referred to as phthalates. The law mandated that manufacturers must carry out third-party testing so that companies could come up with products that were expertly designed for young kid’s ages twelve and below. Ironically, despite that Mattel was the leading cause of its problems, it was still getting proper handling from the government. This implied that Mattel had a competitive advantage since smaller companies were required to pay the private laboratories to carry out their tests. With the support from the government, people assumed that all of its products had undergone strict safety tests. They never carried out any scrupulous experiments as people imagined because of the recalls that were directly linked with their design, a problem that could have been identified with the help of the tests. Another indication that Mattel was not ethically and socially responsible, not forgetting that they never had accountability for the procedures.

Best Way to Guarantee the Protection of Toys

In guaranteeing the protection of children’s toys, there could be many strategies incorporated. Society could play a role in protecting children’s toys by being aware and educating themselves about the product. The community should be ready to be activists for the children and create demands that would make the toy manufacturers abide by the safety standards and regulations. A Cabinet-level committee was established by the Beijing government to make improvements to safety and quality of the Chinese products (Suttmeier, Yao, and Tan, 2009). The Chinese government could also take a bold move to suspend the export licenses of the companies that apply the lead-based paint. Another strategy could be introducing a new toy and food recall system to help in cracking down products with inferior quality and manufacturers who are unlicensed. The Chinese government could also make attempts to ban the application of the lead-based paint on the toys which are being exported to the United States. With the help of the Chinese government, there could be increased inspections and hold frequent discussions with the safety officials in America. The United States government could prohibit the application of lead-based paints on the toys being brought into the country and also increase the inspection activities being carried out on imports. The government could make attempts to meet with the safety officials regularly. The US government could even police and provide training, enhanced scrutiny, and also hold the manufacturing companies accountable for producing incompetent products. Consumer advocates would play a huge role in raising concerns over the products’ safety, for example, inspections could be carried out before any shipments are completed, as well as create safety certification programs. The final stage would include the complete disclosure of the inspections, and the necessary authority would be handed over to the governments. The toy industry should want to ensure that they create the safest toys while improving their overall profits. They should, therefore, implement standard protocols for verifying and testing that the produced toys are safe. The toy industry should also create criteria to confirm that the testing laboratories are qualified. Also, they should equip their employees with adequate training while also policing their subcontractors in a better way. Children’s product retailers should make improvements to the production code stamping for trailing safety problems and also have a recall system that can better alert parents. They should ensure that there are strict regulations and standards to be followed. Standard-setting organizations play a role in ensuring the industry and the government work closely to minimize gaps that manifest deficiencies. They share the motivation to raise product safety for the toys designed for children. Every organization offers a different view of their respective areas and provides their expertise for the good of many people.

Best Way for the Public to Guard Children from Dangerous Toys

Parents, guardians any individual responsible for a child, play a significant role in the safety of children. It is ideal and imperative that consumers research and utilize recall lists, before purchasing any type of toys for young children. One should make sure that they know about the toys children play with. Chose toys that are age appropriated, inspect the toys before allowing the child to play with it, also supervise your child while they play. Safety instructions should be carefully read understand the warning labels. Stakeholders should also increase awareness about the safety measures with toys, particularly those that are from China. The United States can also play a part in raising consumer safety and confidence by playing its role in maintaining child safety.


Mattel never acted in an ethical and socially responsible manner because it did not make sure that its company’s subcontractors were in line with production requirements, ignoring a critical oversight in the design of magnet in the toys despite that it could have taken better steps in preventing the recurrent recalls. Mattel had a high opportunity to stay away from the recalls. It had programs to make sure that suppliers respected the production requirements. However, none of the safety standards and regulations were put in place. Mattel did not also take responsibility for the flaws in their toys which had magnets. Nonetheless, with many strategies including strict safety regulations with the Chinese and the American government oversight on the safety of the toys, Mattel could turn out to be accountable. Parents and governments must ensure that they are vigilant so that they protect their children based on toy safety.


  • Becker, M., Edwards, S., & Massey, R. I. (2010). Toxic chemicals in toys and children’s products: limitations of current responses and recommendations for government and industry.
  • Freedman, S., Kearney, M., & Lederman, M. (2012). Product recalls, imperfect information, and spillover effects: Lessons from the consumer response to the 2007 toy recalls. Review of Economics and Statistics, 94(2), 499-516.
  • Hammond, S. C., & Christensen, L. J. (2016). Corporate and social responsibility: Road map for a sustainable future [Electronic version]. Retrieved from https://ashford.content.edu
  • Johnson, M. E. (2001). Learning from toys: Lessons in managing supply chain risk from the toy industry. California Management Review, 43(3), 106-124.
  • Sethi, S. P., Veral, E. A., Shapiro, H. J., & Emelianova, O. (2011). Mattel, Inc.: global manufacturing principles (GMP)–a life-cycle analysis of a company-based code of conduct in the toy industry. Journal of Business Ethics, 99(4), 483-517.
  • Suttmeier, R. P., Yao, X., & Tan, A. Z. (2009). Standards of power?Technology, institutions, and politics in the development of China's national standards strategy. Geopolitics, History and International Relations, 1(1), 46.


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