However, awareness is not only increasing in individuals but also in businesses. Punishment for actions that purposefully destroy the environment are no longer the only influencing factor. It is considered an obligation for companies to ensure that they go above and beyond in order to protect the environment and its future.
Consequently, one can see the rise in importance of maintaining ESG management in Korean companies. A continuously growing number of companies are publicly displaying their approach and actions to become greener. Nearly all Top 100 Korean conglomerates have implemented ESG management and started their own eco-friendly business. In addition, Korean distributors are also contributing to a more sustainable approach. For example, GS Retail is developing methods to eliminate packaging materials and the Sajodaerim has decided to no longer use plastic caps. The Shinsegae Group has extended their environmental policies as well and have publicly demonstrated their environmental-friendly approach.
Trends in the Korean Toy Market
Three main categories can be defined regarding the development of eco-friendly toys in Korea: the use of eco-friendly materials, the repairing and recycling of toys and the manufacturing of toys created out of recycled materials.
The idea to use eco-friendly materials to develop toys also arises from a safety aspect. Since toys often end up in a child’s mouth, the use of eco-friendly and therefore safe material is encouraged. For the child’s sake the number of brands using materials with undetected environmental hormones are increasing.
Plantoys is an eco-friendly toy retailer and specializes in selling wooden interior items for the nursery. For the sake of the environment, only wood that can no longer produce rubber is recycled. Additionally, all adhesives and dyes used for the products are free from any substances harmful to the environment.
i-brick's paper building block is made without glue but by insertion and can therefore be 100% recycled.
Aurora world is launching the eco-friendly toy brand 'Econation'. Econation is a whole new generation of innovative doll brands that have created new value onto their products by reducing plastic bottle waste. They do this by utilizing fabric created from the recycling of PET bottles. In order to manufacture a single product, 12 500ml PET bottles are reused. The doll fabric and cotton are also made from recycled materials. This method prevents the tossing of roughly 400 million PET bottles into the ocean annually.
The largest trend in the Korean toy market is the repairing and recycling of already produced toys. Every city has their own toy rental and repair center. This project is officially sponsored by one of Korea’s largest enterprises, Hyundai Motor Group. Social Workers of the “Green Move Workshop” disinfect and repair recycled toys to then distribute them amongst day care and children’s centers within the metropolitan area. As environmental issues affect and concern every individual, this project hopes to raise awareness by recycling and re-using toys.
The manufacturing of toys using recycled material is the newest trend and has just started recently. Kolon Group sets an example by producing toys using discarded garments.
The Korean toy market is shifting towards more eco-friendly and green options as the change in the industry has become undeniable.
What do toy trade and toy manufacturers offer?
The eco-friendly factor isn't as strong when compared to the general interest in protecting the environment. However, as the public’s sentiment and awareness transforms, the toy industry is forced to adjust accordingly.
Currently Korea requires Korean Certification (KC) in order to distribute and sell products. This certification can be compared to the European Economic Area (EEA) and resembles a safety standard. The products are tested for durability, quality and safety of material and are expected a certain standard to guarantee longevity and quality. At the moment KC has no regulations regarding environmental protection and therefore needs to be approved. Hence, the following categories are significant to the product assessment: use of recyclable materials, use of methods to reduce waste, no excessive packaging, and related factors. It is expected that in the future, toys that are produced environmentally friendly will become more popular than the toys are not.
In summary, the use of eco-friendly or recycled material in the toy industry can be defined as an important and achievable goal for the Korean toy industry. Especially with the increasing demand of “green” toys and the generated awareness for this topic, the industry will have to adapt and catch on.