Products of Change


Thu 16 Nov 2023 | by Rob Hutchins

SiLC 2023 | 'There's a window for collaboration before legislation kicks in'

There is a small but crucial window for collaboration across the licensing industry supply chains before the heavy weight of legislation demands operational change across the businesses we all work within. This was among the key messages delivered last week when a panel made up of some of the biggest names in brand and entertainment licensing took to the stage to discuss the issues and successes of mapping sustainability, at the Sustainability in Licensing Conference 2023. Leaders from the likes of Bravado, Difuzed, The LEGO Group, Disney, DK Books, Mattel EMEA, and Smiley Company took part in a no-holds barred discussion around sustainability within the licensing sector highlighting among them some of the biggest challenges being faced and the steps they are taking to overcome them. It was the LEGO Group’s sustainability transformation lead, Sine Møller who broached the subject of supply chain and in-team collaboration as a major stumbling block for the industry right now, calling on the need for business to break out of their siloes and work towards common sustainable goals together. Sine – who collected one of the first ever Products of Change SDGs Members Awards later that day for the company’s approach to cross-industry collaboration – has been among the leading voices within the licensing space for driving connection among brands and supply chains to not only aid LEGO’s advance towards its 2025 sustainability ambitions, but the licensing industry as a collective. It was a call to action echoed by the majority of the panel, including the Walt Disney Company’s associate principal council, Anna Halford who detailed the restructuring recently undertaken at the company to better facilitate collaboration across each of the business sectors. As a result, Disney has been able to get ahead of some of the incoming legislation with initiatives that include closer inspection of the Eco-Design for Sustainable Product regulation and the publication of the company’s own green claims guidance for licensees. Many of the moves now being made are to enable companies to better tackle the ‘tsunami of legislation’ heading our way in the next year or so. In 2024, Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directives will kick in as well as the introduction of EPR laws that are expected to be in full flow by 2025. The effects of such laws are already being felt, particularly the companies that already supply to the European market, where the blueprint for what the UK’s regulation will look like is already being laid. “For us, the developments in legislation have meant we have had to go back further into our supply chain than ever before,” said Elizabeth Eaves, sustainability lead at Mattel EMEA. “We recently qualified a portfolio of sustainable textiles to be used in product for children under 3, which is the most demanding application that we have in toys. “For that, we had to go back not only to tier 1 and 2 but all the way back to tier 5 – not to the people stitching and manufacturing the garments, but to the people recycling the plastic bottles to go into the yarns. We had to check what was going into these textiles and that we’re doing it in a way that is minimising contamination of what goes into the final product. “It wasn’t an easy project, but it’s prepared us well for the next challenge of the coming few years which is the Digital Product Passport.” Across the panel, supply chain collaboration was a path well-traversed. DK Books’ head of operational compliance and sustainability, Nicola Torode told attendees the business was now tackling scope 3 emissions – making up 99% of the book publisher’s total carbon footprint, while Bravado’s David Boyne revealed that now UMG – the Bravado parent company – had its net zero ambitions approved by the Science Based Targets initiative, it was in the building of a roadmap to reduce emissions the next steps lay. Despite the advances that are being made, however, collaboration still remains a roadblock to sustainable development. “Companies are still operating in siloes, even within their own operations,” said Sine. “We have to learn to work and share better together.” Heavy legislation is going to shift the business landscape dramatically over the coming years and Disney’s Anna Halford highlighted there remains ‘a small but critical window’ for collaboration before that legislation forces everyone’s hand. While a lot of that legislation is already at play across the European marketplace, one of the major frustrations currently is the lack of harmonisation and standardisation across the board. “Take packaging fees, for instance. There are different systems for it in Spain, in Italy, in UK – all these markets that we are supplying to,” said Jeremy Orriss, licensing director at Difuzed. “Until there is standardisation, the whole this is a nightmare. We can collect the data, but everyone has to agree to a standardisation.” On the subject of collaboration, Jeremy also voiced the topic of “who pays the piper?” Who picks up the cost that will be incurred in changing operating systems, changing materials use, and other areas of industry sustainable development. “Surely we’re at a point where we can collaborate to discuss some kind of industry fund to help facilitate this,” he said. “Perhaps it’s something that can start to come from the marketing spend the established brands have? Perhaps that’s money that can be better placed into educational tools and programmes for those in this area.” Sessions from throughout the Sustainability in Licensing Conference are now available to watch on demand for all SiLC 2023 ticket holders. For those that missed the event - either in-person or online - you are able to access the full day's content by purchasing an online ticket here.