Questioning the TOMS Shoes Model for Social Enterprise

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

After visiting Argentina and seeing the impact of poverty on some of its children, Blake Mycoskie was inspired to create a philanthropic “for-profit business that was sustainable and not reliant on donations.” The result was Toms Shoes, which promised that for every pair of shoes it sold, it would give away another pair to a child in need.

Since its founding in 2006, Toms has given more than 2 million pairs of shoes to children living in poverty in more than 51 countries. And it now has a line of eyewear that offers the same promise. The organization Mr. Mycoskie created has become a well-known example of a company that is based on business principles but also gives back.

It is also responsible for getting lots of Gen X and Gen Y entrepreneurs to think about business in a different way and for globalizing the buy-one, give-one model that is now so popular. In fact, there are many buy-one, give-one companies that have taken inspiration from Toms, and many of them apply to sell through my company, Fashioning Change. As you can see from our roster of brands, however, only two such companies have met our criteria, which we call our Promise of 5. In fact, if Toms Shoes were to apply to Fashioning Change to sell shoes through our site — it has not done so — it would not make the cut.

Source: The New York Times (link opens in a new window)

social enterprise