In the early days of the pleasure industry, nobody was talking about body-safe silicone. There was a culture of shame surrounding sex toys, which for most people meant the less talk about them, the better. Today, however, along with our new sex-positive attitude comes a higher degree of consciousness about the materials that we use in our toys. We want all elements of our business to be both fun and ethical. We want consumers to know that the products they buy from us are good for the body and for the Earth too. Maintaining ethical business practices helps them feel good about the toy in their hands — which makes it easier for them to feel good during play.
It’s easy for brands to “greenwash” and make unfounded claims. I’m sure by now you’ve heard every brand in the world announce that they’re “doing the right thing,” with varying degrees of credibility. But saying you’re doing a thing is very different from actually doing it. So, how can you ensure that you are being ethical, and how do you communicate that to your customers?
If you are considering a creative refresh, a good starting point is to focus on diversity.
Be 100% Transparent
It’s important to build trust with customers, and the best way to do that is by operating with complete transparency. If there is something you don’t feel comfortable sharing with your customers, then it’s better to change that thing than to try disguising it.
For example, our factory in Germany adheres to progressive laws surrounding worker pay, workplace safety and accessibility. For us, “ethical manufacturing” isn’t empty marketing-speak; we have an actual regulatory body that protects our employees. If you have to distribute parts and products across the world, use a company that has a minimal carbon footprint, or that offsets carbon. Ensure that the factory from which you are distributing pays fair wages and has fair working conditions for the staff. Instead of greenwashing your practices, make any necessary changes and proudly share them on your website.
Awards, Certifications and Standards
A great way to earn the trust of your customers, investors or even employees is by winning awards or applying for and receiving certifications. Certifications are like stamps that let people know your business is meeting high standards of accountability, transparency and social responsibility. With so many companies striving to do better, you may not win every award you aim for, but don’t let that prevent you from trying. The very act of applying can help keep you focused, and the application standards are a good measure of your progress.
It is also important and necessary to ensure that your products conform to all local regulatory standards. For sex toys in the U.S., that means, at the very least, measuring up to Consumer Product Safety Commission requirements, as well as the handful of new ISO certification standards that have recently emerged.
Go the Extra Mile
As the younger, more eco-conscious generations grow in spending power, they will continue searching for brands that have high quality standards — and they will do research before putting a random, unregulated toy in their body. It’s worth making the extra effort to demonstrate that you are on the same page as these consumers.
For example, one small but impactful measure that manufacturers can take is to buff toys by hand, to avoid using contaminating chemicals to smooth them. That’s an easy change for most businesses to make. Next, don’t design toys to break down quickly, just for the sake of spurring new purchases. Sex toys should stay on the nightstand, not end up in the landfill.
Ethical business practices don’t just apply to manufacturing and labor. If your website or any other marketing materials show only one body type, gender, sexuality or race, then you are potentially excluding many consumers — consumers who might otherwise be interested in your products. It’s important to show real people and tell real stories that consumers can relate to. A great way to shed stigma or stereotypes is through powerful, raw imagery. If you are considering a creative refresh, a good starting point is to focus on diversity. Challenge stereotypes and go against the grain!
Kristen Tribby has been a sex educator for over 15 years and is qualified through the Everyone Deserves Sex Ed program. She is the head of global marketing and education for Fun Factory, an award-winning German pleasure product manufacturer, and she regularly hosts workshops encouraging sexual exploration.