As CEO of global play and entertainment company Hasbro, Inc. since 2008 and chairman since 2015, Brian Goldner has weathered the changing global retail environment and shepherded Hasbro’s stable of beloved brands, all while maintaining the company’s spot as a nine-time World’s Most Ethical Companies® honoree. Ethisphere Magazine editor Tyler Lawrence got a chance to talk with Goldner about how the company’s commitment to ethics helps to keep its intimate relationship with families.
Tyler Lawrence: Hasbro has been on the World’s Most Ethical Companies list for nine years now. What has enabled you all to maintain that sustained commitment to ethical excellence?
Brian Goldner: First of all, thank you very much for the acknowledgement. It’s an entire company effort. Everyone at our company is very focused on our mission, which is to make the world a better place for children and their families. It really begins with a personal commitment that we each make: we believe we can do incredible business globally while also improving the lives of our constituents, families, fans, kids, audiences, and consumers around the world, and I think that personal commitment leads to the commitments of great teams around the world. And the overall corporate goals and objectives of the company make us an incredible place to work, but also a company that’s having incredible impact as we go out around the world, and we’re obviously grateful for the acknowledgement and the relationship with Ethisphere.
TL: And we are grateful to have you all working with us. You all are committed to “Creating the world’s best play and entertainment experiences.” Why do you think your ethical commitments matter so much to fulfilling that purpose?
BG: At every age group and across every dimension of our business, we all know we want to be great stewards of the environment, we want to contribute to protecting the planet, and to conserving our natural resources for future generations, and we know our consumers share these values. We at the company are all committed to this through what we do in our business lives and in our personal lives. We recognize the impact that our business can have on the environment, and we really are constantly working and thinking about how we can reduce our footprint as a company.
And so, there are very tangible examples of the kinds of steps we’ve taken. Given that we are producing millions of products each year, we continue to be focused on reducing the environmental impact of the products and packaging. That includes making our packaging as sustainable as possible, and helping consumers recycle their well-loved toys and games. Of course, a big part of our business is directly to people that are older than kids, our fan business and gaming business, and they too of course care. So, it’s really a shared set of values between individuals at the company, the management and leadership of the company and our audiences and consumers around the world. I think we’re in lock step about what it means to be a great corporate citizen.
TL: Well, that unity is certainly helpful. And how does your products’ place specifically in the lives of children impact your obligations as a company? Does it raise the bar for you in some ways?
BG: Well of course it does. And it’s been a high bar for us for nearly 100 years. We were one of the first companies in the world to create children’s entertainment and animation, to create brands that have had great resonance with consumers for many decades. And I think the testament to our high bar is that these are brands that have now been enjoyed by generations of parents and children. They are brands that are universally beloved, and they’re shared experiences between the parents and kids, caregivers and gift givers. That high bar that we’ve set continues to be the bar for generations of leadership and it’s been that way since the very beginning, and we want to continue to foster that to be best in class and a world-class company that tells amazing stories around brands, builds incredible brand resonance and salience, creates products and experiences. So no matter how we modernize our approach to brand-building, which has of course been modernized and digitized, the fact is by holding to those high values we’re able to continue to follow our north star in making the world’s best play and entertainment experiences.
TL: You have these high values that you’re trying to instill across your brands, so what’s your approach as a leader to socializing an ethical culture, and this high-minded commitment throughout the company from the executive level on down to new hires on the front lines?
BG: Well we really run the business as a team, and so for each of the areas of our business—whether it be environmental sustainability, ethical sourcing and human rights, diversity and inclusion or our global philanthropy in our social impact—for each one of those are areas that the senior-most team is focused on, we are having meetings cross-functionally in Hasbro. We are focused on how we can have impact there, what are the tangible goals that we can set, what can we communicate out to our constituents, and then how can we accomplish each of those goals. We set ourselves very tangible sets of objectives and targets.
In terms of sustainability, our packaging will be virtually plastic-free by the end of 2022. Nearly 10 years ago, eliminated all wire ties from toys and games globally. And so, we continue to set objectives, and then to accomplish those objectives, and then set new sets of objectives.
Our toy recycling program is first in the industry, and it’s rolling out in new markets around the world because of how successful it’s been. The fact that we’re now able to make becoming carbon negative within Hasbro-owned and operated facilities an objective is significant. We don’t own factories, a decision we made years ago, and yet in regard to human rights we take responsibility for the factories that make our products, and we’re putting people in those factories and auditing those factories on an annual basis. We audit 100% of our third-party vendors and major subcontractors. So, in each area the teams set objectives and goals that are accomplishable in the short-, medium-, and long-term. As we are able to accomplish or approach those goals, we like to communicate to our constituents the progress that we’re making. In doing it that way, there’s a very tangible roadmap for everyone in the company.
TL: The roadmap does sound key. You’ve been CEO since 2008 and chairman since 2015. In these leadership roles you’ve overseen this remarkable shift in consumer buying habits from physical retail to increasingly online. How do you think your reputation as an ethical brand, a brand that is environmentally responsible in these ways, that is looking out for consumers in other ways, has helped you to weather that shift?
BG: First and foremost, it’s the continuity of our commitment that really helps to inform and inspire each generation who have touched our products or have even been involved with our brands. It’s the fact that our fan business is flourishing and focused on adults who then want to have similar experiences and share those experiences and introduce their kids, or nieces, or nephews, or grandkids to our brands and products, because they know them to be so wholly wonderful. They are brands that are loved, and from a company that has high ethical standards that are consistent with their own high ethical standards for what brands should be doing and how they should be contributing.
As we go to a more digital world there are multiple choices for how you buy products. When you know a product is from Hasbro, and you know when it’s one of our brands, you also know the care that we’ve taken to create that product, to bring that product to market, to create a story and character around that product, and to enable fans of those brands to travel across multiple dimensions with that brand thinking about the value of each of those touch points. And I think that’s what’s really critical in this environment. There are so many choices for consumers. There’s unlimited shelf space online. We have to be able to delineate that there are brands of higher quality, brands of higher value, brands that are safer and are made in a thoughtful process, versus products that may be made in a manner that’s where less care and attention is placed on those elements.
TL: It does seem like your brand in particular has the advantage of benefiting from nostalgia, right? Parents or even grandparents who associate Hasbro with their own childhoods and remember the quality of those toys and want that for their own children.
BG: That’s true. And I think that it’s our responsibility to constantly reinvent, and reignite, and reimagine those experiences, recognizing that today’s young people see brands and brand experiences differently than their parents or grandparents. But that the continuity comes in the fact that those are high-quality experiences around thoughtful engagement with brands, great stories told in great ways, with the opportunity to experience our brands in a number of different forms and formats, and are also delivered to a global audience. We’re very cognizant of differences in culture and norms and the way people not only shop but the way they engage as families.
TL: There’s growing discourse around the importance of broadening conversations about company purpose and serving all stakeholders rather than just shareholders. You’ve touched a bit on this throughout the interview, but what’s your point of view on this whole conversation?
BG: The “why” for business is incredibly important and essential to the motivation of individuals in our company, teams in our company, and our board of directors, as well as our stakeholders. The why, create the world’s best play and entertainment experiences, to improve the lives of children and their families, to make the world a better place for children and their families, is essential to what we do. We often find that the reason people not only come to work for us, but want to continue to work for us, the reason that almost 100% of our workforce is engaged in community giving, is because we are so focused on and so clear about why we do what we do. People really believe in that, as all of us do in management. It just pervades the organization. I think that to me that’s what all companies can focus on and certainly what we focus on at Hasbro.
TL: Anything else you’d like to add, Brian?
BG: I really appreciate the opportunity to speak on behalf of 6,000 people around the world as we continue to expand our business, as we continue to see the challenges that exist in the global marketplace. We’re a company that’s continued to evolve and to try to reflect the desires of our global stakeholders, and our teams do an amazing job in understanding our audience and consumer better than anyone, and providing them the world’s best play and entertainment experiences.
About the Author:
Brian Goldner, Chairman and CEO of Hasbro, Inc., is responsible for bringing the company’s iconic brands to life across its strategic Brand Blueprint, through toy and game innovation, immersive entertainment experiences, digital gaming, consumer products, esports, publishing, and many more categories. Since joining Hasbro in 2000 and taking on the role of CEO in 2008, Mr. Goldner has been instrumental in transforming Hasbro from a traditional toy and game company to a global play and entertainment leader. Mr. Goldner pioneered Hasbro’s entry into entertainment and oversees the Company’s omni-channel storytelling. In 2019, he led the company in the acquisition of entertainment studio eOne, building on Hasbro’s brand portfolio globally extending great storytelling and content across all screens.