From suburban teenagers to urban hipsters, the TOMS brand has established itself as the “good samaritan” brand. They have made people believe that purchasing a pair of TOMS is a serious contribution to the global fight against poverty.
There is only one problem, it isn’t.
TOMS and founder CEO Blake Mycoskie have adopted the BOGO (Buy One, Give One) model. So if you buy one of their pairs of shoes then they will send another pair to a child in a third world country. This will fix poverty right? Wrong. I can understand how TOMS is trying to give out a good message by helping these children out who do not have shoes but this is not the way to help out the poor in these countries.
One of the problems with this is that TOMS is relying on the Western world to give these children shoes. Now what will happen if the economy begins to go down (as it is today) and people can no longer afford these $50-75 pair of shoes. What will happen to the children who have solely become dependent on these shoes? Will they not ever receive another pair? And how long do these shoes exactly last for? And is this truly helping the poor?
The other problem that I see is that they are directly affecting local shoe companies and peoples jobs. This is an issue because there are a lot of people who are losing jobs because these local shoe companies are going out of business. Yes, TOMS is doing a great job by giving away these shoes but are they really fixing the problem of poverty in a third world country? However, instead of TOMS “One Day Without Shoes” assisting the local companies by providing funding and other ways for their businesses to grow. TOMS has instead bypassed these local companies and have set them up for disaster.
I have personally never bought TOMS because I believe that if I am going to give to a charity program I would rather give them money so that they can buy food and water for these people. Yes, shoes are important but I do not think that they are as necessary as food and water.
Now I am not condemning TOMS in anyway. What they are doing is for a good cause, I just do not believe that this is the best way to help the poor. There are other companies out there who have use a more effective way to help people out of poverty. Like SoleRebels, this is a company based out of Ethiopia. I believe that one of the greatest ways to get people out of poverty is to find someone a job and give them dignity. SoleRebels 100 employees are paid about 300% more than other workers in Ethiopia.
So let’s say that every worker at SoleRebels has about five kids (the fertility rate in Ethiopia). These workers send their children to school to get an education which in the future would lead their children to have better jobs then being a shoemaker. This would lead to those families becoming more wealthy and making sure their kids go to school, which if you look 100 years down the road this impacts thousands of people. Now imagine this, what if SoleRebels sold as many shoes as TOMS did. This would not just affect the community it would affect the entire country. This is the kind of stuff that fights against poverty and can really turn it around. The young women who founded SoleRebels had a discussion about TOMS.
“If you give a kid shoes, they wear out or they grow out of them, and then what do they have? If you give the kid’s parents a job, the whole family will always have shoes.”
We often forget that those within a community, with the right resources, can transform their own community.
Check out both of these companies websites:
SoleRebels : http://www.solerebels.com/
TOMS : http://www.toms.com/