Hasbro, which has made playtime a little more fun since 1923 with products ranging from classic board games like Candy Land and Monopoly to fanciful figurines like My Little Pony and Mr. Potato Head, also happens to be the world’s most sustainable toy company. That’s according to Newsweek’s 2017 Green Rankings, which ranked the company third out of the 500 largest publicly traded companies in the U.S. on overall environmental performance; no other toy company is in the top 10.
Hasbro is carbon neutral across its U.S. operations, built a LEED Gold headquarters in Rhode Island, and occupies LEED-certified office space in multiple other cities. The company conducts life cycle assessments (LCAs) on its products to identify ways to reduce environmental impact, and earlier this year they announced a slew of ambitious initiatives to raise the sustainability bar on their product line.
For example, they’re phasing in bio-based plastic in their packaging and have created the first dedicated toy recycling program in the industry. Municipal waste management services are typically not outfitted to recycle toys, so the company launched hasbrotoyrecycling.com: parents can ship out a free shipping label, box up old, unused toys and Hasbro will see to it that they are recycled. Mr. Potato Head will live again.
We recently spoke with Kathrin Belliveau, Hasbro’s senior vice president of global government affairs and corporate social responsibility, to learn more.
gb&d: How does sustainability relate to Hasbro’s larger mission of toy-making?
Belliveau: Our purpose is to make the world a better place for children and their families, and when we talk about “the world” we are talking about our planet and the environment, and conserving natural resources for future generations. Not only do we care deeply about sustainability, we know this is a shared value with our consumers and all of our stakeholders. It’s a win-win and core to our purpose, mission, and how we operate around the world.
gb&d: What has the response been to the new toy recycling program so far?
Belliveau: We’ve seen a tremendous response to the Hasbro Toy Recycling program, the first of its kind in the industry thus far. Consumer interest, feedback, and participation rates have been overwhelming. We are using 2018 as a pilot year to get some learnings under our belt and, if all goes well, we hope to expand the program to consumers globally in the future.
gb&d: How does the recycling program work? How are the toys broken down and what are they recycled into?
Belliveau: Most municipalities in the U.S. do not offer toy and game recycling, so we introduced this free pilot program to offer our consumers an opportunity to recycle their well-loved Hasbro toys and games. Once participants sign up online, they can collect and box up their toys and games, print out a free shipping label, and send their box to TerraCycle, who will sort and recycle the products. The program is open to all Hasbro toys and games, including face-to-face games, electronic toys, wood/plastic/metal toys, action figures, dolls, plush toys, and more. All toys and games collected through this program will be recycled into new materials for the construction of new playgrounds, play spaces, park benches, and other innovative uses.
gb&d: What did it take to get the company to carbon neutral? What are the next steps for Hasbro in terms of energy use?
Belliveau: Hasbro uses 100% renewable energy and is carbon neutral across its U.S. operations and has achieved 99.6% across all global operations. In addition to purchasing Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs), Hasbro purchases carbon offsets to address its global carbon footprint. We’re pursuing a set of ambitious environmental goals for 2025 across our owned/operated facilities (based on a 2015 baseline year), including reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by an additional 20%.
gb&d: What other sorts of green features might one find at a Hasbro facility?
Belliveau: In the U.S., our preference is to lease LEED-certified buildings. Our LEED Gold headquarters in Providence, Rhode Island includes reclaimed wood flooring made from barn wood siding sourced in New England and PVC-free carpet tiles. Our Burbank, California office features ventilation control systems that monitor carbon dioxide levels and circulate fresh air to maintain a healthy interior environment, while helping reduce energy demand and LED lighting with controls that automatically measure natural light and dim the fixtures accordingly, further reducing electricity consumption.
gb&d: What is the Sustainability Center of Excellence?
Belliveau: Hasbro is committed to helping build a safer, more sustainable world for future generations, and the Sustainability Center of Excellence is Hasbro’s blueprint to guide our efforts and drive continuous improvement across every aspect of our business. Our Center of Excellence is based around three pillars. The first pillar is called “Design for the Environment,” which focuses on reducing the environmental impacts of our products and packaging. The second pillar is “Sustainable Supply Chain” to drive sustainable sourcing and eco-efficient logistics and natural resource conservation. And finally, our third pillar is all about “greening” Hasbro facilities and building an eco-minded culture.
gb&d: What are some examples of materials in your products that represent sustainable alternatives?
Belliveau: Earlier this year we announced that we will begin using plant-based bio-polyethylene terephthalate (PET) for blister packs and plastic windows in our product packaging starting in 2019. This shift in material builds upon Hasbro’s efforts to continuously enhance the sustainability of our packaging and enables us to develop packaging that is less reliant on non-renewable resources. This step is one of many advancements we have made to enhance the sustainability of our packaging over the past decade. Additional actions include eliminating wire ties in 2010, replacing polyvinyl chloride (PVC) with PET in 2013, and achieving 90% recycled or sustainably sourced paper for packaging and in-box content in 2015.
gb&d: What steps has the company made toward taking a leadership role in the toy industry sustainability arena?
Belliveau: For more than 20 years, Hasbro has pioneered company-wide initiatives and industry standards in the areas of product safety, ethical sourcing, and environmental sustainability. Beyond our industry, we are proud to have been recognized by some of the world’s most prestigious business rankings for our CSR and sustainability commitments and advancements. For example, Hasbro ranked No. 3 on Newsweek’s 2017 Green Rankings, which assesses the 500 largest publicly traded companies in the U.S. on overall environmental performance. We have been ranked among the top five on the 100 Best Corporate Citizens list by CR Magazine for four consecutive years, which assesses the top 1,000 publicly held companies in the U.S., and we have been one of the very few consumer products companies named a “most ethical company” by Ethisphere Institute for the past seven consecutive years.
gb&d: Tell us about some of the initiatives spearheaded by your office green teams, like the “Wreath Cycle” competition.
Belliveau: Our Green Teams around the world bring their passion, creativity, and energy to engage their Hasbro colleagues in environmental activities. Each year, our Green Teams host Earth Day celebrations around the world and lead fun and educational events such as upcycle activities for kids during or annual Bring Your Child to Work Day.
gb&d: What have been the greatest challenges in your sustainability journey thus far?
Belliveau: One of the challenges we face in our business is in the exploration of alternate materials. There are myriad considerations that we need to take into account, from our high quality and safety standards to our requirements for aesthetic design and consumer experience. Additionally, new materials must also comply with new and rapidly changing regulatory restrictions. Finally, we must always bear in mind that innovative products must maintain competitive pricing for our consumers. It’s quite a complex arena.