In a well-written, 2- to 3-page paper, discuss how the Mattel case informs our
understanding of what it means for companies to be ‘socially responsible.’
Keys to the Assignment
1.In the context of CSR, in what ways did Mattel demonstrate ‘not social responsibility’ but
social irresponsibility? Consider how the company’s actions may have run counter to the
tenets of CSR through its neglect of duty to the company’s shareholders, its employees, and
even the larger public trust. Be sure to cite specific examples.
2.What have been the long-term consequences of Mattel’s actions, and how did the
company’s implosion change our view of what it means for a company to be ‘socially
3.Be sure that you use at least two references from the library, and that you properly cite
4.Follow the guidelines in The Student Guide to Writing a High Quality Academic Paper
5.You are expected to demonstrate evidence of critical thinking – as defined in the Module
2 background materials and the grading rubric
Corporate Social Responsibility: The Case of Mattel Inc.
Today’s companies are compelled to demonstrate corporate social responsibility for them
to survive and thrive in the global business world. This is because any company that ignores the
need to become socially responsible is likely to have its reputation damaged, which may impact
negatively on the business (Torres, Garcia-French, Hordijk and Olup, 2012). Mattel Inc is a good
example of an organization which has suffered negative consequences as a result of corporate
social irresponsibility. According to Rangan, Chase, and Karim (2012), corporate social
responsibility is defined as an approach to sustainability that involves delivery of economic and
social benefits to shareholders, employees, customers, and the natural environment. Based on
CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY: THE CASE OF MATTEL INC. 2
this definition, it is evident that corporate social responsibility does not only entail environmental
protection, but it also encompasses issues related to employee health and safety, corporate
governance, as well as respect for human rights. Mattel’s actions counteract the ideology of
corporate social responsibility in the way the company treats the larger public, employees, and
shareholders (Sethi et. al., 2011).
One of the instances that reveal Mattel’s corporate irresponsible behavior is the
company’s decision to release toys which are excessively contaminated with lead paint into the
market. In August 2007, Mattel Inc was compelled to recall more than 500,000 toys that it had
released into the market after a European retailer discovered substantial concentrations of lead in
the company’s toy products. Lead is extremely harmful to children, and it can cause severe
health problems when inhaled in high concentrations. Mattel’s toys that were contaminated by
lead paints were manufactured by Lee Der, a manufacturing plant in China that the company had
given a tender to produce its toys. Before these toys are released into the market, Mattel has a
duty to conduct thorough safety checks with them to ensure that they are free from any
contaminant that may cause harm to the public. However, the company failed to assess the safety
of its toys before they could get into the hands of the public, which is a sign of corporate social
irresponsibility (Sethi et. al., 2011).
Another sign of social irresponsibility by Mattel is seen in the way the company treats its
workers, especially pregnant women who form part of its workforce. Although expectant
mothers should not be relieved of their duties when they are still strong enough to work, their
employers should limit the number of tasks assigned to them, because their conditions make
them weak and vulnerable. Furthermore, an organization should have a work schedule that
allows its workers to have some days of rest, especially over the weekend, to give them time to
CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY: THE CASE OF MATTEL INC. 3
go to church and to attend to personal issues. On the contrary, Mattel Inc forces pregnant women
to perform heavy duties which are very harmful to their health. Also, the organization compels
its employees to go to work even on Sundays with only a day of rest in a period of two weeks
(Sethi et. al., 2011). These actions demonstrate the extent to which Mattel violates the rights of
its workers. Based on this observation, it can be concluded that Mattel is a socially irresponsible
organization because it does not respect the rights of its workers (Torres et. al., 2012).
Furthermore, Mattel’s social irresponsibility is manifested in the way the company
neglects its duty to shareholders. Mattel’s shareholders are confident that the company will work
hard to prevent loss of their shares. For this reason, they expect the company to always be on the
watch out and to mitigate all forms of risks that may negatively cause negative impacts on its
financial performance. On the contrary, Mattel has failed to exercise full control over its
suppliers. The lack of sufficient control over suppliers has influenced them to ignore safety
standards specified by the company thereby resulting into the manufacture of toys which are
contaminated by lead (Sethi et. al., 2011).
Corporate social irresponsibility by Mattel has made the company suffer negative
consequences which today’s organizations can learn from. Before the toy recalls that were done
by the company in 2007, many people had a lot of trust in the company as they believed that it
paid attention to ethics in all its actions. However, immediately after the incidence, the public
began to lose trust in the company, which caused a significant drop in sales. Moreover,
employees who could not withstand the harsh working conditions set by the organization decided
to leave their jobs. Again, shareholders began to withdraw from Mattel due to a drop in shares
CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY: THE CASE OF MATTEL INC. 4
that took place in the organization. These negative consequences made Mattel to learn the
importance of observing ethics in business and specific actions that a company should implement
to become socially responsible (Sethi et. al., 2011).
Mattel’s exposure has changed people’s understanding of what it means for organizations
to be socially responsible. Traditionally, many people believed that corporate social
responsibility mainly encompasses environmental protection with a limited focus on human
rights and corporate governance. Mattel’s case teaches how corporate governance, as well as
human rights issues, applies to corporate social responsibility. Those organizations that view
corporate social responsibility as a combined approach towards sustainability achievement are
highly concerned about environmental protection, employee health, and safety, corporate
governance, as well as respect for human rights (Torres et. al., 2012).
Rangan, K., Chase, L. A. & Karim, S. (2012). Why every company needs a CSR strategy and
how to build it. Harvard: Harvard Business School.
Sethi, S., Veral, E., Shapiro, H., & Emelianova, O. (2011). Mattel, Inc.: Global manufacturing
principles (GMP) – A life-cycle analysis of a company-based code of conduct in the toy
industry. Journal of Business Ethics, 99(4), 483-517. Retrieved from ProQuest.
Torres, C. C., Garcia-French, M., Hordijk, R. & Olup, K. L. (2012). Four case studies on
corporate social responsibility: Do conflicts affect a company’s corporate social
responsibility policy? Utrecht Law Review, 8(3): 51-73.
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