Mattel’s Green Progress, from Joke to Serious Business

mattel makes progress on sustainabilityA few years ago the toy company Mattel tried to boost its green cred by launching Bcause, a line of craftsy-styled girls’ tote bags and other accessories made with fabric scraps left over from manufacturing Barbie clothes. The move was greeted in some quarters as something of a joke, and it probably would continue to evoke some snickering if that was the only extent of the company’s efforts. However, Mattel has moved forward on a number of other fronts that address core issues including energy efficiency, resource conservation and greenhouse gas reduction. Like many other companies, Mattel used this past Earth Day to issue a press release updating its sustainability progress, so let’s take a look and see what they’re up to.

Energy Saving Programs from Mattel

To be fair, Mattel was deep into energy conservation by the time it introduced Bcause. By 2009 the company was engaged in a series of efficiency programs that saved 20-40 percent on electricity costs at some of its factories, along with water conservation and oil conservation programs. The company had also been participating in industrywide carbon emissions reduction programs for transportation including the U.S. EPA’s Smartway Program, resulting in a 30 percent reduction in CO2 emissions from its U.S. distribution system.

From Fabric Scraps to Twist-Ties

Aside from reaching out to consumers with a reuse/recycle message, Bcause may have helped shave a few points off Mattel’s waste disposal logistics. Another of the company’s endeavors uses a similar interplay between customer-friendliness and bottom line savings: according to its press release, Mattel has reduced its use of those annoying twist-ties by more that 90 percent (Packaging Digest has a nice rundown of Mattel’s new resource-conserving, twist-tie-less packaging). The company has also completed a lifecycle analysis of packaging for several product lines, which could result in more consumer-friendly packaging that consumes fewer resources and costs less to produce.

Employees and Sustainability

Mattel is drawing on its employees as initiatiors, drivers, and users of its sustainability programs. This includes employee “resource expeditions” to improve energy and water conservation at the company’s facilities; using local produce in employee cafeterias; composting cafeteria food scraps, which employees can take for their gardens; and supporting an organic gardening and composting at a company day care center. This Earth Day, Mattel also announced that it has partnered its employee volunteers with a California coastal cleanup organization, and it will host an e-waste collection day for employees and the local community at its El Sgundo campus. All in all it seems that Bcause was only the bginning (sorry, couldn’t resist!).

Image: Doll by photogirl7.1 on



Tina writes frequently for Triple Pundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, clean tech research and emerging energy technologies. She is a former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes. She is currently Deputy Director of Public Information for the County of Union, New Jersey. Views expressed here are her own and do not necessarily reflect agency policy.

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