Products of Change


Thu 17 Nov 2022 | by Rob Hutchins

Schleich commits to new materials, toy production circularity and sustainability by 2027

The international toy manufacturer, Schleich has set ambitious new targets to produce all figurines from recyclable or biodegradable material by the end of 2027. In addition, the business is also seeking full Cradle to Cradle certification in the same time frame as it ramps up its commitment to circular economy principles. This will mean Schleich figurines will be recycled without loss of material quality. To achieve the ambitious targets set out by the firm’s ceo, Dirk Engehausen, Schleich is working closely with the consultancy institute and innovation partner, EPEA GmbH. Through following its Cradle to Cradle commitment, the toy firm will also see improvements made to the social and environmental impact of its production and supply chain. “We strive to use only sustainable materials. As a first step, by the end of 2027 all our figurines will be recyclable or biodegradable. Also, we are working hard at finding recycled or bio-based material for the future production of our toys,” said Dirk. For over 85 years, Schleich has been producing highly detailed and long-lasting children’s toys, bringing with it a heritage of longevity. “Our figurines are timeless and have always been handed down from generation to generation. This longevity significantly reduces the carbon footprint of our products,” continued Dirk. “But we can’t rest on our laurels. We’re conducting research into long-lasting materials for products and packaging that conserve resources. “Already in five years, our figurines will not only be recyclable or biodegradable, but thanks to our adoption of the Cradle to Cradle principles, we will also ensure that Schleich figurines are given back into the product cycle at the end of their lives, so that a Schleich figurine ideally can become a new Schleich figurine with the same high-quality material. “We strongly believe that only with this holistic approach we can contribute to a more sustainable toy industry.” A business transformation Schleich’s goal is to transform the entire company, making each individual area of the business more sustainable, from production of figurines to sales and distribution. To hit this target, it is working with EPEA GmbH which will support the company on the path towards a Cradle to Cradle certification by 2027. “The Cradle to Cradle design principles are based on the idea of using resources – such as the material from which Schleich figurines are made – as best as possible and over and over again,” said EPEA founder, Professor Michael Braungart. There are five key criteria to Cradle to Cradle certification:

  1. Material Health – all ingredients of the products should be safe for humans and nature, both in production and use as well as in after-use.
  2. Product Circularity – Product components must be either biodegradable or high-quality recyclables as part of a circular economy.
  3. Clean Air and Climate Protection – The impact of production on the environment must be gradually reduced e.g. by switching to renewable energy sources.
  4. Water and Soil Stewardship – Water catchment areas and soil ecosystems must be safeguarded to ensure that people and animals continue to have access to clean water and healthy soils.
  5. Social Fairness – The company must be managed in such a way that all people and ecosystems throughout the value chain are treated with respect.
“Sustainability is a journey and we’ll be taking some important steps along the way in the coming years. Our products are so long-lasting and of such high quality that it’s very rare they are thrown away. But should that ever happen, rigorously applying the Cradle to Cradle design principles means that a Schleich dinosaur can ideally be made into another Schleich dinosaur – or a lion, horse, or unicorn, instead of a product with less material quality,” said Dr Philipp Hummel, head of sustainability at Schleich. Initial prototypes that meet the high safety standards required for children’s toys already exist. “In addition to materials and production conditions, we’re also focused on issues of social fairness in terms of our sites and partners.” CEO, Dirk Engehausen, added: “We’re on an exciting journey with Schleich towards becoming a company that not only talks about sustainability, but makes it an integral part of its strategy. Like the rest of the toy industry, we’re also being called upon to find new sustainable materials and processes to produce long-lasting, good toys for future generations that conserve resources.” Schleich’s Four Pillars of Sustainability Aside from the toys themselves, Schleich’s sustainability strategy has three further pillars: children, the planet, and people. Schleich will be investing in initiatives that broaden children’s knowledge and promote lifelong learning where sustainability is concerned. To this end, Schleich is collaborating with the American Montessori Society in the USA and providing video courses and content for teachers. Schleich has also been working with National Geographic Kids since 2021 with the aim of encouraging kids towards animal and nature conservation through play. Other steps being taken by the toymaker include the constant regionalising of its supply chain to shorten transport routes and reduce its negative carbon footprint. In future, products will primarily be made in the places they are sold. As a result, other areas of production will be relocated to Europe. Finally, people are at the heart of Schleich’s sustainability measures. The long-standing Swabian company is part of the ICTI Ethical Toy Programme, an internationally recognised certification programme for ethical toy production.