Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the ICTI CARE Process (ICP)?
It is the worldwide toy industry's initiative to promote fair labor standards and safe working conditions in the production of toys. This ethical manufacturing program moves beyond simply setting the standards with which factories must comply. The aim is to have one global code of business practices and to achieve one world standard for the ethical manufacturing of toys throughout the global supply chain. It also has established an evaluation arm that oversees monitoring for compliance with those standards and provides guidance and training where necessary to help factories to do so.
2. How has ICP evolved?
From a procedural point of view, in its own version of a continuous improvement program, the ICTI CARE Process has continually evaluated its performance, learned from it and then sought ways to better achieve its mission and goals. Improvements made to date include:
- Refinements to the audit firm/ auditor qualification and certification process, including more frequent re-certification and broadening the number of audit firms, as well as requiring IRCA certification of auditor qualification courses.
- Centralizing the audit firm assignment process within ICFAL to bring more transparency to the process.
- Launching a major policy change, the Continuous Improvement Program (CIP), to help factories work toward compliance over a reasonable period of time, with reasonable goals, rather than adhere to a straight pass-or-fail system for compliance in the area of wages and working hours.
3. What is ICTI CARE doing to increase industry participation?
ICTI CARE recognized from the beginning that to persuade factories to participate, it must simultaneously convince toy brands, licensors and retailers to support ICP. This effort asked toy brands and retailers with own brands to enter a "Date Certain" program, whereby they would commit to a specific date after which they would source only from suppliers certified by, or registered in, ICP. By the same token, retailers and licensors were asked to enter a "Convergence" program under which they would converge their ethical manufacturing code with the ICTI Code and/or would accept compliance with ICP as being compliance with their own codes.
4. What impact has ICTI CARE had?
By October 2015 over 1,100 factories with more than 600,000 workers were brought into ICTI CARE. These factories have either achieved or are actively working toward compliance and, as such, have improved labor conditions for their workers. In a clear demonstration of worldwide buyer support for ICP, more than 900 toy brands, licensors and retailers from 29 countries have also made a commitment to ICP, selecting a date after which they will source only from factories in ICP.
5. Why should consumers feel confident in ICTI CARE certification?
A factory will receive ICTI CARE certification only when it has demonstrated that it is committed to compliance with the ICTI Code of Business Practices by establishing effective, verifiable, systems to satisfy the Code's provisions continuously. This evaluation will be performed after a rigorous review by an independent third party auditor team that has itself been accredited by the ICTI CARE Foundation in Hong Kong.
To forestall potential conflicts of interest among auditors, factories and brands, The ICTI CARE Process has installed several checks to minimize or eliminate such risks.
- ICP is overseen by the ICTI CARE Foundation, a New York based nonprofit organization whose multi-stakeholder Governance Board is charged with monitoring the ICTI CARE Process, approving guidelines and reviewing decisions, as needed.
- The Governance Board, on the advice of its Technical Advisory Council, is charged with accrediting independent auditing firms to evaluate factory conditions. In order to avoid conflicts of interest, one of the conditions of accreditation is that an auditing firm must not maintain any consulting relationship with the same factory that it will audit on social compliance issues.
6. How is ICTI CARE independent of industry?
By promulgating the ICTI Code of Business Practices and supporting development of the ICTI CARE Process, the toy industry has reinforced its commitment to operate in a socially responsible manner. The oversight and operation of the program is carried out by the ICTI CARE Foundation, an independent non-profit foundation whose Governance Board includes representatives from Civil Society, NGOs and intergovernmental organizations, in addition to industry.
7. What is ICTI CARE doing to enhance the transparency of its activities?
Beginning in 2011, ICTI CARE began to post summaries of its financial reports and of the minutes of its Governance Board meetings on its website. It is also posting results of annual factory surveys that pinpoint issues to be resolved and improvements to be made in the ICTI CARE.
About Compliance Policy
8. How has ICTI CARE assured a strong labor voice in its governance?
ICTI CARE has sought from its beginning to develop a balanced board that includes strong labor and civil society representation in addition to industry (manufacturers and brands). Labor-focused Governance Board members include a person from the Fair Labor Association; and we are actively seeking a second person. From civil society, there are members from the International Youth Federation, Harvard University's JFK School of Government and a former member of parliament and government minister from Finland.
(For more information, please click here)
9. What is ICP doing to ensure that workers are being paid at least the legal minimum wage and that working hours practices comply with national law requirements?
Compliance with at least the legal, national minimum wage is a basic requirement of ICP and failure to comply is considered a serious violation that must be corrected, not only to receive a Seal of Compliance, but also in order to be allowed to enter the Continuous Improvement Program (CIP) for working hours.
The CIP allows factories that comply with wage requirements, that have no other serious violations and that are transparent about their current working hours practices to enter into an agreement with ICP to make progressive steps toward working hours compliance over a specific time period. This program was developed as it became clear that the difference between actual hours worked and the legal requirements was so great that factories could not or would not move to compliance in a single step. In the years since this program began, a very large percentage of the factories involved have entered the program and are making the required progress, as verified by regular audits.
10. What is ICP point of view on the concept of a "Living Wage"?
ICP believes in the payment of fair wages for work performed and insists on full compliance with government wage regulations as a starting point. It is the national government that decides on the level of the minimum wage. ICP has been considering the concept of "living wage" for some time and in general follows and supports the ILO policy, which accepts progressive implementation toward an agreed goal - perhaps set by an independent expert. We are currently evaluating this approach and seeking advice from our labor-focused Governance Board members. In any case, ICP continues to look for a solution; but in the meantime views attaining compliance with government regulations a significant improvement for workers.
11. What is ICP doing to combat corrupt or unethical behavior?
This type of behavior has a zero tolerance level in the ICTI CARE Process. ICP approach is establish a clear policy, publicize it broadly to ensure all concerned are aware of it, report violations to competent authority and take our own internal actions, and - equally important - support positive action in terms of education and training programs as well as the encouragement of a professional association and accreditation for auditors.
(For more information, please look at section 7 on ICP Process Handbook)
12. What is ICP doing to educate workers on their entitlements under Chinese law?
For the past two years, ICP has been working in a public-private partnership with:
- GIZ, a federal enterprise which supports the German government in achieving its sustainable development objectives
- DVSI, the German Toy Association
- the China Toy and Juvenile Products Association
- the Chinese government entities responsible for labor policy development and implementation.
Together we have undertaken a pilot program to educate workers on their labor rights and give them a means to report issues. These include:
- a worker train-the-trainer program to provide basic training on labor rights
- "What you Should Know" cards for distribution to workers
- a worker hotline, staffed by NGO partners, to provide a way for workers to ask for clarification of their rights and to report infractions.
The pilot project has ended successfully and ICP is now seeking and using grants to fund expansion of the program via a national roll-out.
ICTI was formed in 1974 as an association of toy trade associations from around the world. The products of its 19 member countries encompass the full range of toys, playthings and related merchandise. In 1995, ICTI adopted a Code of Business Practices and, in 1996, it expanded this Code and also adopted a Fire Prevention and Emergency Preparedness Guide to encourage safe conditions in toy factories around the world. In 2002 ICTI approved establishment of the ICTI CARE Process (ICP), which went into full operation, based in Hong Kong, in 2004.