Play for sustainability

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Play for sustainability

Stockholm, Sweden
Organization type: 
for profit
$100,000 - $250,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Gro Play is a playful and innovative brand that designs both physical and digital play (toys and games) that teaches children about the

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Green choices're often associated with extra work and sacrifices. Choosing a more sustainable lifestyle shouldn’t be an effort driven by guilt.It should neither be expensive nor difficult. There’s a need for eco educational tools for educators who find “eco matters” hard. Tools that are easy and fun to use, that help them take the first step. Even kids without eco-conscious educators should have a chance to learn about the environment. There’s a need for platforms where kids and adults (with no pre-skills) can learn together about environmental matters. Many parents appreciate eco toys. But the eco values seldom reach the kids. Kids evaluate toys simply according to how fun they are to play with. And what difference does it make if a product is ecological if no child want to play with it?

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Gro Play is a playful, innovative and modern brand, that provides toys and games, both physical and digital, that teach children about the environment and sustainability. Gro Play invites both adults and children to play and learn together about environmental issues. We take eco toys one step further, by not only choosing good materials and local manufacturing, but by also inspiring the users to more sustainable behaviour. Gro Play aim to enlighten the users, make them curious and interested of their own role and responsibility for the world though a sustainability point of view. Toys are either ecological, educational or commercial – in order to get a real positive environmental effect out of toys and games they need to be all three!

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

There’s no other brand that focuses entirely on eco-educational products for children. What differs us from other eco-brands: Our products not only ARE eco, but TEACH eco, which is even more powerful. We’re not a brand only for the eco-conscious, but also for those who aren’t. Those might even be more important. Gro Play is a transparent brand. People who want to get in contact with us or find information about the manufacturing, materials, waste management, etc, are be able to. Peers: WWF, HSR Competitors: Ordinary toy-brands (Disney, etc) and other digital game distributors (Toca Boca, Filimundus). They use commercial characters supported by movies, etc. Others: KalleKunskap, SvenskaKunskapsförlaget
About You
Gro Play & Design AB
Background Information
First Name


Last Name


The competition is only open to people between 18-34 years-old and resident in UK, Ireland, Sweden, Denmark or the Netherlands. Does this apply to you


Country of residence of entrepreneur


Tell us about your personal background. Why are you passionate about this issue? Making an idea a reality takes innovation, dedication and strong leadership. Do you have the necessary entrepreneurial skills to realize your vision?

In the two years I have run this, over 250 000 children have played our eco-educational games and according to teachers and parents they have not only been popular among the kids, but also inspired the children (and adults around them) to actual actions and change.

I grew up in Alingsas, a little town outside Gothenburg in Sweden, and I have studied Industrial Design Engineering at Chalmers, and a masters in Design at the Hong Kong Polytechnical University.

For me it is obvious that as a designer I have a responsibility. But even power. Since eighty percent of a product's environmental impact is determined already at the drawing board, where the product concept is created, designers have enormous power and thereby also a huge responsibility. This has inspired me to wholeheartedly be social designer and social entrepreneur. For me product design is much more than to make an attractive product. A good designer will take into account what happens before and after use. Another aspect that fascinates and inspires, is how the product affects the user in the long run. Can a product still have a positive effect even long after the product is gone? Can it change individual behavior and thought patterns?

About Your Organization
Organization Name

Gro Play & Design AB

Organization Country

, ST, Stockholm

Country where this project is creating social impact

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The Model: Walk us through a specific example of how your solution makes a difference; include your primary activities

Gro Play has designed three steps that successively bring up different environment issues and aspects in a logical way. All Gro Play products fall in under one of these three educational steps.

STEP 1 introduces happenings and elements that are good or bad for the environment. For instance pollution and litter are harmful to the environment, whilst windmills and bins are not etc.

STEP 2 works on developing the understanding of how cause and effect are related. For instance, pollution increases, the temperature rises, ices melt, polar bears lose their homes.

STEP 3 makes the borders between the play world, real world and virtual word disappear. Our concept ideas for this step are still under development.

From a sustainability perspective, toys and games need to meet the following four criteria according to Gro Play:

DURABLE PLAY - toy shall allow the user to be flexible and creative in their play. It should be possible to play solo, two, or in groups.

DURABLE EMOTION - The toy is emotionally durable when it evokes positive feelings for a long time and contributes to many memorable moments. The toy should be interesting and entertaining for a long time.

DURABLE QUALITY - The game should not be interrupted because of quality deficiencies. Materials, manufacturing and transportation chosen so as to minimize environmental stress and will take into account fair labor.

DURABLE THINKING – All our products have underlying eco educational focus, that aim to develop the users’ sustainable thinking.

We like easy learning. We can achieve the greatest effect if we can engage not only the already eco-conscious and “eco-blessed” people in the learning process. If we can also engage those who have no clue what “sustainable development “ is, or how a metal can on the ground can do to wild life, we are on our way to achieve great things!

Today we have six physical and one digital product. One of our products is a double-layered puzzle game. The bottom layer shows a polluted environment full of garbage. The whole point is to cover this nasty illustration with puzzle pieces showing a clean and healthy environment, where people take responsibility for their waste. The little rhymes on the backside of the pieces can help any adult to get started.

As mentioned before, we believe we need to be commercial and attractive for a large crowd in order to reach our vision. An example on that is that our board game about recycling and consumption, could have been a game only appreciated by the eco-crowd, but received 4 out of 5 from both Aftonbladet and Svenska Dagbladet, the two of the largest newspapers in Sweden which year make a big board game testing.

During our product development we regularly test prototypes on children, gather focus groups with parents and educators to collect their insights and stay up to date on what happens in our industry. We are continuouesly expanding our expert panel, in which we have experts in different fields like energy, biology, pedagogy, etc.

GETTING INTO SCHOOLS – Last spring we had almost a quarter million pre-school children play our game. That was though a very successful collaboration we had together with the foundation Håll Sverige Rent (HSR [Keep Sweden Tidy]). Gro Play and HSR developed a material together (a puzzle game and a handbook) that was distributed to all pre-schools that participated in HSR’s annual campaign “Skräpplockardagarna” (Garbage Picking Days). The aim was to give both children and educators a tool to help learn about littering in a fun and simple way though out the whole year, and not only during the campaign week. HSR’s survey (with almost 1000 participants) show the material was highly appreciated among both children and educators. The survey also showed that the educators saw the material actually worked and that children took their own initiatives both at the school and at home.

Since public schools have limited purchase possibilities. They are obliged to purchase from companies that has procurements with their municipality. By starting to sell though Aba Skol we have opened up the possibility of getting hold of our products to a lot more schools. By offering recycling companies to put their logo on our board game we have made our products even more attractive for them. They appreciate having a fun, attractive and yet recycling-related product to give out to classes when they come on study-visits. We need to keep up finding more ways to get to schools environments.

BEING WHERE THE KIDS ARE – Today even 2-year olds play digital games on smart boards. The digital app market is a great B2C arena in which we have a great opportunity in reaching our target group, and really stand out. We launched our first digital app (a beta version) and were surprised it was downloaded almost 30.000 times in one year, only in Sweden (it was made in Swedish). This gives a hint of the great potential in continuing in the digital direction, were the next step for us is to launch a language-free games to hit a larger market and reach more children. (Planned launch: May 2012)

Select the stage that best applies to your business

Operating for 1-5 years

Social Impact
What is the social impact you have had to date and how you measure it?

We just delivered our Social Impact Report to Playing for Change. It’s built up around a three-year goal “More children play their way towards a more sustainable lifestyle.”, and several sub-goals. The most important part for us to show is that we (1) reach a lot of children and (2) that children actually learn something (know what things they can do to influence positively on the environment, according to themselves, educators and parents). The last is the hardest to measure. Last year we reached 276.000 children and according to a HSR survey (900 participants) our material gave the wanted effect.

What barriers might hinder the success of your business? How do you plan to overcome them?

Retail - the distribution channel that gives least, but requires most. Other toys are simple, have licensed characters and huge marketing budgets. In store a product only has the customer’s attention for a couple of seconds. Our values aren’t easy to communicate that fast.

It’s hard to have good margin and at the same time not be the most expensive toy, when the other products are all mass-produced in China.

Schools don’t have money so we have to find ways to keep distribute our products to them anyway.

It's hard to only have income through sales especially in the beginning.

How does your model address financial, social, and environmental sustainability?

FINANCIAL SUSTAINABILITY: We design and sell products and through that get income. By collaborating with large companies and foundations we can reach to a large amount of people quickly and effectively. We focus more on B2B sales than retail because it gives larger volumes and an larger income because it cuts out one middleman.

We teach children how human activity impact environment and what they can do to influence positively on the environment. We use play as a tool, because is not only the most fun, but also the most powerful, way of learning. What people learn as children, become natural to them as adults.
We use ecological materials.
We manufacture in Poland.
We have several internships where young passionate people can develop and gather work experience.

Awareness & learning
How do you see social entrepreneurship contributing to the improvement of developing countries?

We strongly believe in the saying: its better to teach people how to fish instead of giving them fish. Social entrepreneurship in developling countries is a powerful and long-term way of defeating poverty. These countries face many challenges; overused soil, polluted water and air, and environmental toxins put peoples’ lives at stake every day. Industrial development put even more pressure on nature, and often for short-term gain without long-term perspective.

The people in these countries are the ones who hold the key to the solution. They know the obsticles and understand the need better then anyone. Supporting social entrepreneurship is crucial for a sustainable growth here. We depend on nature, which means we also need it tomorrow. People must learn how use the nature sustainably. Our mission is to give all children the chance to lay a foundation for a sustainable lifestyle through play. No matter where they live.

What aspects of your stay in Uganda as part of the competition do you think you will find most challenging and rewarding?

Gro Play runs on the passion and the drive to make the world a better place. And we want to have fun while doing so. Playfulness is something that is often lost in places where the day to day life can is a struggle. As Sara Damber in Playing for Change says: “Children need food and water to survive. To live, they need play”. Visiting Uganda can teach us a lot of how children like to play there, and what their environmental challenges Uganda is facing. Because we are designing all our products ourselves, user insights, observations and interviews, are crucial to make products and services that work an will make a real difference. Social entrepreneurs can learn form each other, because each country and culture has their own local opportunities, problems, and ideas.We have a contact with "Save Child" in Ghana, and hope to have a collaboration in the future where our products can adjusted to local needs and resources.