When the International Organization for Standardization, or ISO, announced its new standards for sex toys, the industry applauded. Finally, manufacturers would have a baseline for nontoxic materials and safe design, and that baseline would build consumers’ confidence in our previously unregulated business.
Fun Factory celebrated the ISO’s announcement and our peers who collaborated with the organization to develop the guidelines. At the same time, we believe the ISO’s baseline standard still leaves room for some consumer skepticism, not least of all because the standard is voluntary. As long as safety and ethics standards are still discretionary, there are certain areas that we believe will make a difference in building consumers’ trust. When your company can authentically claim to have safe, sustainable and ethically-made products, it will attract more enthusiastic customers, raising your profile and the industry’s.
PROTECT WORKERS’ RIGHTS
Millennials and Gen Z, in particular, care about factory conditions and employees’ well-being. When a company uses sweatshop labor and the news breaks, it’s a scandal; when a company pays workers fair wages, then the brand can charge premium prices. Distinguishing good labor practices from bad ones goes beyond questions of worker pay and rest periods — it also matters that the factory is safe and accessible. These principles extend across industries to all consumer packaged goods.
Conscious consumers aren’t swayed by superficial marketing-speak, which may leave you wondering: How can I entice them to view my manufacturing practices favorably? Decide on the standards you’re ready to meet for pay, workers’ rights and manufacturing facilities, and speak to those standards at every opportunity. Once your clientele understands that you ensure workers’ safety, it will raise their confidence in your brand’s overall quality.
SUSTAINABILITY AND QUALITY ASSURANCE
In this moment when environmental disasters and climate reports are always headline news, the industry needs to prioritize and speak out about sustainability. One step toward eco-friendliness is using materials that won’t leach into the earth, and choosing biodegradable or recyclable packaging.
Another step toward sustainability is more controversial, but arguably more effective: Have your customers buy less. This idea provokes anxiety in some business owners, because they mistakenly believe that they need lots and lots of repeat customers to stay profitable. Instead, selling fewer products at a premium and securing a better reputation may be a better long-term strategy. Focus on quality over quantity, and your business can thrive without generating tons of trash. GOVERNANCE
If your executive team is composed of white men only, you can expect consumers to notice. This is one more area where superficial measures won’t make the difference. Even if you use diverse imagery, if your team is homogenous, your clientele will likely be skeptical about your values. When leadership embodies forward-thinking values, consumers can trust that the rest of the company does, too.
Retailers also have a role to play in shoring up consumers’ trust. When someone walks into a store and they have no idea whether the toys on the shelves might hurt their body, it’s anxiety-provoking. On the other hand, if customers believe that everything on your shelves is safe and pleasurable, it makes your store’s approval of those items into a seal of quality.
In stocking brands that have good quality control and a strong code of ethics, retailers can strengthen their own reputation, the reputation of the brands they carry and by extension, the industry’s reputation as well. If your store has already taken this step, then make sure your customers know they can count on you. Highlight the benefits of ethical, sustainable brands — like not worrying about hormone-disrupting chemicals — in your communications and on your website. These messages help shoppers understand what they should be looking for and where to find it.
Holding ourselves to standards like those above will be labor-intensive, and the industry won’t transform overnight. But with every step forward that we take, more consumers’ fears will be put to rest, and more of our products and services will be widely available to anyone. Until there’s real regulation, we’ll have to take it upon ourselves to act ethically and manufacture safely.
Kristen Tribby is the global head of marketing and education for Fun Factory.