Disney Keeps a Tight Reign on Labor Practices

Have you noticed how you never see bad reports of Disney labor practices in the news? It turns out there is a good reason for this. They have very strict labor practices, and they enforce them. Disney has a Code of Conduct for Manufacturers and it is public and on the web. This code includes details on what is considered child labor, what rates of pay they expect the employees to make and what are considered reasonable working hours.

Made in Thailand Logo
Made In Disney Logo

Disney does not make all its products in the USA, and after looking through their information, it’s hard to believe that they could make it all here, even if they wanted too.  As of the time of this writing, there are over 25,000 facilities licensed to make Disney branded products, including subcontractors. Walk through a store tomorrow – any store – and notice how many items have a Disney character on them. Each one of those products is covered by Disney’s manufacturing policies.

Some of these products are made in China and in 100 countries around the world,  and therefore Disney has developed policies and processes to audit and oversee all authorized production factories. In 2010 they conducted 5,800 audits of facilities, including unannounced audits. Disney is very informed on these issues and consults with many sources to determine where to focus their resources and prioritize their audits.

We have used a variety of resources to evaluate priorities, including data from past facility assessments by country as well as external resources such as AccountAbility’s Responsible Competitiveness Index, Freedom House’s Political Freedom Index, Heritage Foundation’s Economic Freedom Index, Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, the United Nation’s Human Development Index. We are currently adopting the World Bank’s Governance Indicators as our primary resource for determining how to focus our monitoring resources and requirements.  – Disney’s statement of Facility Information, Monitoring and Remediation

In addition to monitoring facilities for labor practices, Disney also takes forced labor and human trafficking seriously. They have an International Labor Standards (ILS) Program to address working conditions in facilities where their products are made. In 2010 Disney developed a Human Rights Statement that includes information on how they implement their policies, including employee training.

Snow White, Seven Dwarfs, Mickey and Minney Figurines
Disney licensed figurines

In order to prevent problems Disney has staff and 3rd party contractors that audit the facilities that make Disney licensed products.

I found that sometimes Non-Government Organizations such as “Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM)” publish concerns about conditions in Disney licensee facilities, but Disney follows up on these. They have a published document about concerns sited in 2010 and 2011 that lists specific issues and explains how Disney followed up on them.  In some cases they have worked with the facilities to remediate the situation. In other cases, remediation failed and Disney severed their ties with the offending facility.  I respect Disney for this, more than for anything else. They attempted to work with facilities to improve the working conditions for the employees, but when that was not possible, they uphold Disney standards by withdrawing their business.

Disney recognizes that their audience and their customers are children and their families.  As such, children and families are very important to Disney and as a company, Disney cares about all children and families throughout the world.

Knowing this information, I feel that when I am choosing to purchase a Disney product I am making an ethical choice. Their products may not be Fair Trade labeled, but they are not created on the backs of children or workers who are forced to labor to the exclusion of all else. As a person and a parent this is important to me. I would rather that my children have fewer things than to think that the products I buy for them were made at the expense of the childhoods of other children.

This is an important issue that is hard to think about and Americans don’t like to consider these issues, but I encourage you to be aware of labor issues with the products you buy.

Labor issues are not the only things that go into Disney products,  recently I’ve written about their lifecycle costing and use of organic cottons as well as well as how green Disney vacations are.

What questions do you have about Disney’s green values?

Happy Greening,


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