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The very pressing green agenda

In the first in a series of new columns for LicensingSource, Gary Pope, ceo of Kids Industries applauds the strides that the licensing business is making towards a more sustainable future.

This is the first of my columns for LicensingSource. So I wanted to say thank you for having me, Max Publishing. I’ll be writing in my capacity as ceo of Kids Industries, but also with my other hat as Children’s Ambassador for Products of Change. And it is from the latter perspective that I want to write this all-important first column.

As most people in the industry know – I’m not one for mincing words. After the nonsense of COP26, I was completely inspired at Brand Licensing Europe by the licensing community’s brilliant commitment to sustainability and for the forthright way in which so many organsiations in our industry have rolled their sleeves up, recognised the problem and decided to do something about it.

Here at KI we’ve kicked off our small contribution toward the collective effort by undertaking some focused, open-source research and I wanted to share a little of why it is just good business to invest in our children’s future.

It’ll come as no surprise that the research told us that consumers associate sustainability with positive sentiments such as high-quality, long lasting and recyclable – all things which drive affinity for brands. The market however, doesn’t move until the consumer needs do – and here’s the thing, parents want it to be easier to buy sustainable products, they want packaging to be recyclable, for it to be easier to fix or refurbish items instead of having to throw them away and they want sustainable materials in the products they do purchase.

Children too are driving change. We already know that they influence family decision making around purchases – and as they get older, they have more power over their own spend, too. The influence children have in the family cannot be underestimated, and this activist generation are shaping their parents views of what being a consumer should mean.

The 2,000 children we spoke with in the UK and the US told us they are buying more pre-loved items, they’ve bought fewer things and have reminded others to buy less unnecessary items. They’re also starting to avoid products that they think have damaged the environment before. Just over 20% of children are already engaging in deliberately sustainable purchasing behaviours – and as they become older this is only going to become more pronounced as a sustainable culture forms.

The issue is that change is not happening fast enough and that’s largely due to an education gap. 93% of children want to do something positive to help stall climate change, but 53% are confused about what they can do. In fact, 65% of UK children 5 – 15 don’t even know what ‘sustainability’ means – this includes 80% of 5–7-year-olds and 50% of 12–15-year-olds. Evidence in itself that the Department of Education’s changes to the curriculum to make learning about the environment part of the prescribed learning experience, very much needed.

As an industry, we have a responsibility to respond to those driving changes and I’m keen to recognise and applaud the efforts and commitment that the likes of Helena Mansell-Stopher and all those that support Products of Change. We have collective responsibility to drive change – and it is not easy, especially with all the other nonsense businesses are having to deal with. The achilles heel of sustainability is cost – we’d all do more if it were cheaper and easier but the harsh reality is sustainability has to be accessible and they only way that is going to happen is if we make it so. Three kids, working wage, inflation etc., means it’s not easy but we all have to move together so that those that buy our wares, can do so with the knowledge that that lovely toy for their beloved child doesn’t eat away at the fabric of that child’s future.


Greenwashing gets my goat, but that’s for another time because right now we need to celebrate, acknowledge and applaud the amazing initiatives that are making a difference. The likes of industry leaders LEGO, for example, which has pledged to reduce carbon emissions by 37% by 2032. The sustainable collectable – EUGY – from Brainstorm Toys which enables children to build their own 3D model from biodegradable card with natural eco-friendly ink and non-toxic glue – just brilliant!

Mattel, too is charging ahead with its ‘Mattel PlayBack’ programme which is designed to recover and reuse materials from old products in the manufacturing of new toys. It is giving out free shipping labels online to package and send their old Mattel toys back to the company. Once received items are separated by material type, processed and recycled. Products that can’t be repurposed into new toys will be down-cycled into other plastic products or converted into energy.

These are just a few examples of change in motion. We know that we can the changes needed and really, we don’t have any other option but to do the right thing. The data tells us it is no longer sufficient to just be ‘recyclable’ – a much greater level of data is now expected from consumers.

Products of Change is giving us the platform for change – I’d encourage everyone to get on board and use it. We’ll soon see the emergence of programmes not dissimilar to Fair Trade, but for sustainable licensed products, whereby items that adhere to a set of green protocols are accredited. And that’s something I’m sure that licensees could get behind and provide assurance and encouragement to parents and children.

If you’ve seen a great initiative and are happy to shout about it, do tag me on LinkedIn or write in to LicensingSource about it. Let’s spread the word and be a great example to other industries about what can be achieved when we work together.

Gary Pope is ceo of Kids Industries and Children’s Ambassador for Products of Change.

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