Our Sustainability Journey

Find out more about the Schleich sustainability strategy

Toys for generations

Do you remember your first toy? Maybe it still exists and you passed it on to your own child - a gift as timeless as play itself. For nearly 90 years, durable Schleich figurines and playsets have been a staple of childhood. Whether it's a lion, a rabbit or a koala bear, millions of children around the world enjoy animal figurines that reflect nature in as much detail as possible. Passed down from generation to generation, they naturally contribute to sustainable play.

91% of people have never thrown away a Schleich figurine*. This means that 98% save their Schleich figurines! For example, families pass them on to other children, friends, neighbors or onto their grandchildren. Some might even donate them to charitable organizations.** This saves resources and protects the climate in a very natural way.

However, we would like to go one step further, because we believe we have a responsibility to contribute to a positive future for our children and our planet. For this reason, we have developed a comprehensive sustainability strategy. It makes our entire business model even more sustainable.

The pillars of our sustainability journey

 Where are we today and where do we want to go?

Playful learning about nature and animals

Children are natural storytellers. We support them with our detailed and authentic figurines and playsets that let their imaginations run wild. When they play, children take us on jungle safaris, North Pole expeditions and five o’clock tea with unicorns and dragons. They show us a world worth preserving. We support children in doing so: With our detailed and authentic figurines and playsets that give free rein to their imagination and teach them about our planet and its inhabitants. We invest in initiatives that use our products to expand children’s knowledge of nature and the animal world, and that nurture lifelong learning in support of sustainability. For example, we partner with American Montessori Society in the USA to support independent, engaged, and self-motivated learning by providing video lessons and content for teachers.

Sustainable toys for generations

Our products are not just for today – they are for life. To ensure that schleich® figurines and playsets can be passed down from generation to generation, we use materials of the highest quality and adhere to the strictest safety requirements. 

However, this is not enough for us. We strive to use only sustainable materials in the future. As a first step, by the end of 2027 all our figurines will be recyclable. Also, we are working hard at finding recycled or bio-based material for the future production of our toys. In addition to that and to ensure that resources are reused over and over again, we are optimizing and certifying our figurines and packaging in accordance with the Cradle to Cradle® circular economy principles by the end of 2027. This means, among other factors, that Schleich figurines are recycled without loss of material quality. To achieve this, we are collaborating very closely with the renowned consultancy institute and innovation partner EPEA GmbH.

Resource-saving operations for a healthy planet

Our figurines need a place to play. And so do our children. We are committed to making a positive contribution to our planet’s protection, so our children and their children have healthy, vibrant spaces for their stories to unfold. We continually work to make our value chains more regional, tighten our transport routes, and minimize our carbon footprint. For example, as part of the Net Zero Carbon program from our sea fright provider Kühne + Nagel, we have reduced our sea freight CO₂ footprint by 1.000 tons per year (compared to 2019). Also, our site in Schwäbisch Gmünd will be equipped with a photovoltaic system in 2023.

The human being in focus

People are at the center of our sustainability activities, so we prioritize safe and healthy working conditions at every point in our value chain – both for our own employees and the people who work in the supply chain of our figurines and playsets. We are part of the “ICTI Ethical Toy Program”, an internationally recognized certification program for ethical toy production. Health and safety training for our workforce, as along with diversity, equality and inclusion initiatives, are the cornerstones of Schleich.

Our Head of Sustainability

„Sustainability is teamwork. We can only complete the journey to an even more sustainable organization all together as one team.” – Dr. Philipp Hummel

What does Cradle to Cradle® mean?

The Cradle to Cradle® (C2C) sustainability principles aim to use the resources of our planet – for example, the material from which our figurines are made – for as long as possible and then to reuse them again and again. Together with our partner EPEA GmbH, we will develop our figurines and packaging in accordance with the Cradle to Cradle® principles by the end of 2027. This means, among other factors, that Schleich figurines are recycled without loss of material quality. For this purpose, all components of our products must be C2C certified. This includes the material, the colours with which our figurines are painted, and the adhesives.

For more sustainability in sea freight: Our journey with Kuehne+Nagel

Together we are working to reduce our CO₂ footprint


Why is sustainability important for Schleich?

Sustainable play has always been firmly anchored in Schleich's DNA. For over 85 years, we have been producing high-quality and therefore very long-lasting toys with great attention to detail. Our figurines are timeless and have always been passed down from generation to generation. Children today play with the Schleich figurines of their parents or even grandparents. This longevity of our products naturally reduces their ecological footprint. But we cannot be satisfied with that. We want to meet our responsibility for children and their future on a healthy planet. That's why we are transforming all areas of the company to make them even more sustainable and further minimize our footprint. For many years, we have been researching durable resource-saving materials, designing our packaging to be more ecological, and making our supply chains shorter. 

What has Schleich achieved so far?

Our team of engineers, chemists, and sustainability experts is working at full speed at the development of new, sustainable materials for our products. We have also made great progress in the area of paints: From 2022 on, we will paint our products only with water-based paints. In addition, we are developing a paint that is Cradle to Cradle® certified with our partners such as BASF Coatings GmbH.

We have been significantly decreasing the plastic in our packaging and replacing components with recycled and recyclable materials. Compared to 2020, the we have reduced plastic in all our packaging by around 20%. From 2022 on, for example, the tray of our Advent Calendar will be made of cardboard. This saves around 40 tons of plastic per year. From July 2022 onwards, all schleich® HORSE CLUB and FARM WORLD sets are already shipped in packaging without plastic windows. The packaging of the new product line HORSE CLUB Sofia's Beauties also does without plastic windows, which saves about 15 tons of plastic annually. Likewise, we are increasingly using displays that do not require plastic holders for our figurines.

In the area of ocean freight, we cooperate with the logistics company Kühne + Nagel, among others, as part of their "Net Zero Carbon" program to reduce CO₂ emissions along our supply chain. This has enabled us to reduce the carbon footprint of our ocean freight by around 1,000 metric tons of CO₂ emissions per year compared to 2019. We are also switching over to green energy and LED lighting at our sites. At our headquarters in Schwäbisch Gmünd, our employees have access to charging points for their electric cars. We also subsidize employee-bicycles. Our headquarters will be equipped with a photovoltaic system in 2023. We are working on more regionalization of supply chains forward, to shorten transport distances.

What are our sustainability goals?

Our sustainability program includes all parts of the company: 

We strive to use only sustainable materials in the future. As a first step, by the end of 2027 all our figurines will be recyclable. Also, we are working hard at finding recycled or bio-based material for the future production of our toys. In addition to that and to ensure that resources are reused over and over again, we are optimizing and certifying our figurines and packaging in accordance with the Cradle to Cradle® circular economy principles by the end of 2027. This means, among other factors, that Schleich figurines are recycled without loss of material quality. To achieve this, we are collaborating very closely with the renowned consultancy institute and innovation partner EPEA GmbH. The Cradle to Cradle® idea also includes the improvement of the social and environmental impact on production and supply chain.

In addition, we are reducing packaging materials wherever possible and increasingly rely on paper-based packaging. By 2025, all our packaging will be recyclable. From 2023 onwards, we will only use cardboard that is FSC®-certified for our packaging. To reduce our carbon footprint even further, we will regionalize our production in the coming years by increasingly manufacturing our products where they are actually sold, so that transport distances are shortened.

Will our figurines change?

The quality and safety of our products are Schleich's top priority. The quality, feel and look of our products are not affected by the use of more sustainable materials. Attention to detail, authenticity and high quality are and will remain our product values that set us apart. A Schleich lion will always be a Schleich lion and will continue to feel the way children around the world love it. We make no compromises here. We are working at full speed to find sustainable and recyclable materials that meet these demands.

What is the role of social factors at Schleich?

Social aspects play a particularly important role for Schleich. We want to offer everyone a safe and fair workplace: our own employees and the people who work in the supply chain for our figurines and playsets.

We and many of our suppliers have been members of the "ICTI Ethical Toy Program" since 2019. Its aim is to improve ethical and sustainable standards in global supply chains in the toy industry. The program includes regular and independent audits of working conditions at production sites, supporting and reviewing improvement measures, and increasing transparency in our global supply chains. Schleich has been expanding its cooperation with the "ICTI Ethical Toy Program" even more strongly since 2022 in order to further improve social and ecological aspects in the supply chain together with our suppliers.

We have also developed numerous occupational health and safety measures for our own sites and have been able to significantly reduce the number of accidents as a result. These include training for employees and improvements in our health and safety management system.

In 2022, we launched a project initiative to promote diversity, equality and inclusion in our teams. Today, we have a women's quota of 55% across all levels and 35% in management.

Why are Schleich figurines made from plastic?

Currently, our figurines are made of different materials and plastics - depending on the requirements of the product. For the production of children's toys, plastic is superior to other materials because of its safety, quality, detail and durability. This is true not only for Schleich, but the entire toy industry. Our colors are also optimally adapted to plastic and have the highest mechanical and chemical resistance. They ensure the enormous longevity of our products - and above all that all Schleich products are bite-, scratch- and saliva-resistant.

It is a major challenge for the entire toy industry to find sustainable materials that meet all these criteria. But we are on the right track. We are currently working with partners and suppliers such as BASF and EPEA GmbH to develop a material that is compatible with the Cradle to Cradle® principle we are striving for. It is our goal that all our products will be recycled, biobased, recyclable or biodegradable by 2030. The first prototypes that meet the high safety requirements for children's toys have already been created.

What does it mean...

Sustainability means for us, that we don’t just think of the present, but that we also consider the consequences of our actions for the future. It means, to align with the needs of today’s human beings while also regarding the coming generations. Sustainability for us is a journey of development, in which we look at all areas of our company – from design and production of our figurines and playsets to their transport and sale up until the moment, when children play with them.
Sustainable materials
Sustainable materials can be bio-based, which means made from renewable raw materials – such as sugar cane – or from recycled raw materials – meaning raw materials that have already had a previous use. Sustainable materials can be recycled, meaning that a raw material used can be reused to make new materials at the end of its use. Or they are biodegradable, which means that the raw material can under certain conditions be decomposed back into biomass, such as humus. For us, sustainable materials means that we use sustainable plastics for our figurines and playsets, and that we make our packaging from sustainable materials, for example cardboard from sustainable forestry.
Water-based paints
Water-based paints have water as their main ingredient. Unlike many conventional paints, they do not contain organic solvents. Water-based paints are of the same quality as conventional paints. At the same time, they are more environmentally friendly and completely safe in production as well as on the product.
Circular economy / Cradle to Cradle® (C2C)
Cradle to Cradle® (C2C) is a sustainability principle developed by Prof. Dr. Michael Braungart, William McDonough and EPEA. It stands for innovation, quality, and meaningful design. Translated, it means "from cradle to cradle" and describes the safe and potentially infinite circulation of materials and nutrients, the so-called circular economy. Waste in the current sense is to be completely avoided by turning all waste products into reusable raw materials. In addition to the C2C principle, it is possible to certify products in the Cradle to Cradle Certified® program. The certification is based on a transparent standard and is checked and audited by independent institutes.
EPEA GmbH Part of Drees & Sommer is an international innovation partner for environmentally friendly products, processes, buildings, and urban quarters. EPEA's goal is to establish the Cradle to Cradle® design principle for the circular economy in all industrial sectors. EPEA supports companies in the development and implementation of Cradle to Cradle® solutions. Since 2021, Schleich has been working with EPEA to develop figurines and playsets that comply with the Cradle to Cradle® design principle.
ICTI Ethical Toy Program
The ICTI Ethical Toy Program is an independent non-profit organization that aims to improve ethical and sustainable standards in the global toy industry supply chain. We and many of our suppliers became members of the ICTI Ethical Toy Program in 2019. The program includes regular audits of working conditions at our suppliers, the support and review of improvement efforts, and increase of transparency in global supply chains. We are expanding our collaboration with the ICTI Ethical Toy Program in 2022 to further improve social and environmental aspects in the supply chain together with our suppliers.
CO₂ is a so-called greenhouse gas and a natural part of our atmosphere. It ensures that we have a warm climate on earth. CO₂ is released in particular during conventional energy production. The increasing emission of CO₂ leads to the so-called climate change, meaning to a warming of our earth. The CO₂ emissions of a person or a company are referred to as the CO₂ footprint.
Positive ecological and social footprint
Every activity has an impact on our environment and us. The ecological impact on our planet, for example through the consumption of resources, can be described as the “ecological footprint”. The social impact on people, for instance on employees, respectively can be called the “social footprint”. In addition to the implementation of efficiency measures, we follow the Cradle to Cradle® (C2C) approach with the vision of leaving a positive footprint on the planet and for people. This means that our activities are to have a positive impact by creating good and secure jobs and giving back to the earth more than we consume. This is made possible through consistent implementation of C2C principles. We are for instance increasingly using renewable energy and developing our products in a way that makes them both durable and recyclable. In this way, children can enjoy our figurines and playsets for a long time, and in the very rare event that they do get thrown away, they can be developed into a new product.

You have further questions or feedback about sustainability at Schleich?

Then please contact our Consumer Service team.
For press requests, please contact Kristin Malbrant, Head of PR & Corporate Communication.

We look forward to hearing from you!

* Own online survey with 1453 participants in February 2023
** Own online survey with 1327 participants in February 2023

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