Play-Doh-Corporate Social Responsibility Meets Inclusivity

I am all too familiar with the anxiety of expectant and first-time parents. Guilty as charged, I went for the stroller with the $1200 price-tag, and you know what it did to my parenting skills-nothing. Everyone wants the best for their children and this leads to countless of hours research about baby clothes made out of organic cotton, or non-toxic sustainably sourced bath product. Parents not only strive for the best, but increasingly make buying decisions based on the idea that a product does more than simply perform a function—it represents who they are and what they believe in. Once the choice has been made, many will eagerly pay a premium for parenting products that promise to alleviate the first-time parent anxiety and may even vow to make the world a better place.

The buzz word is Corporate Social Responsibility. There are countless of ways to describe the term. To get to the heart of the matter, it’s about companies moving away from a profit seeking model to a purpose driven approach effecting long term change. Over two thirds of consumers believe that it is important for brands to take a public stand for what they believe in when it comes to political and social issues. It is no longer just standing up for something—it’s about standing for something. Parents are all in on the “do good” thing at a premium.

Here comes Play-Doh.

It is perhaps surprising that among purpose driven brands for families, Hasbro was ranked No. 1 on the 100 Best Corporate Citizens list for many years. Hasbro is committed to conserving natural resources for future generations—this should be a given for every toy company. Play-Doh, the compound itself is sustainable as it includes pretty basic ingredients, but the company won’t reveal the proprietary recipe. Hasbro also removed the paper label from the plastic container and by making this change, it is estimated that the company is saving 2000 trees annually. Additionally, the plastic container is marketed as recyclable and reusable for other crafts.

And why talk about Pay-Doh and not some awesome new startup making organic baby clothes while donating a portion of their proceeds to a cause they strongly believe in?

Simply, because it’s worth giving this question some thought.

Do companies who do good and create socially conscious products widen the inequality gap when it comes to consumers?

Yes. Today’s parents are making a positive impact in the world with their purchasing power and they are undoubtably providing the best premium parenting products for their kids. And, at the same time, this adds to the widening inequality gap between consumers. As long as purpose driven parenting brands remain out of reach for a large majority of families, we are not just doing good—we are adding to the world of difference between the haves and the have nots.

Play-Doh makes it possible for everyone to get on the purpose driven bandwagon for the price of a tub of dough. This is inclusive corporate social responsibility.

When it comes to parenting brands, socially conscious companies are the future. Millennials are the ones driving demand for products that represent a strong sense of purpose. As more and more Millennials enter the stage of parenting, it is becoming clear that their consumer choices for their children are in line with the trend of doing good at a premium. All companies should be purpose driven, but what could be done to drive down prices and perhaps be more inclusive?

It would be amazing if purpose driven children’s clothes would be in everyone’s reach, but who can afford a kid’s sweater for $42— even if that means reducing the plastic pollution in our oceans? We need more commitment from the private sector and the government to drive down the cost of manufacturing socially conscious and sustainable products.

Companies need to provide transparency for consumers to determine a fair markup on their products. The government should introduce new legislation in support of sustainable products, whether that is a grant or a subsidy— this would help drive purpose driven brands into the mainstream market. Socially conscious should be the norm and until that changes, the poor are priced out of purpose driven.

Paying a premium is an issue, but it is also important to investigate the psychology of most American consumers when it comes to shopping. American consumerism runs counter to the purpose driven approach of many companies. Purchasing decisions are often made to satisfy a desire or a want, such as being a better parent, rather than to serve an actual need. Parents need to be mindful of the fact that their main source of happiness comes from family, relationships and time spent with loved ones. Buying less and focusing on fulfilling a need, would free up some funds in the family budget to spend more on products that give back to communities.

It should not be buy one get one free over buy one and change the world.

So, Play-Doh it is until there is a shift toward inclusivity and better choices when it comes to American consumerism.


Simona Grace