Last night as I was heading home from a fake meeting with my International Social Development group (aka “Team Awesome”) at Tom’s Restaurant, Jeremy and I got to talking about TOMS Shoes and social businesses. He mentioned that he wanted to purchase socially conscious footwear and was considering TOMS, to which I responded with a push to reconsider. That launched us into an analysis of social businesses.
It made me wonder a bit about some things, some of which I won’t delve into just yet since my thoughts aren’t fully formulated. But should these enterprises’ priorities be first sales and second social impact, or vice versa? Perhaps I’m biased in saying the latter since my area of focus is around development and sustainability…
Jeremy mentioned that essentially TOMS Shoes is a business and who are these businesses to really care about the social impact side when their MO is probably profit and sales? (Disclaimer: I don’t think either of us are saying that TOMS doesn’t care; it’s just a valid view to bring up in the discussion.) And he has a point. Businesses like TOMS wouldn’t be very successful if people weren’t kept in poverty. So perpetuating it is potentially beneficial for such companies, though I don’t think that is TOMS intention at all — just an unfortunate consequence of its “aid” model.
Then earlier this morning, Daniela Papi connected with me and we jumped immediately into this discussion of the real impact of NGOs and aid. I won’t reiterate all of her great points, but she mentioned the need for better marketing of real social impact and of NGOs that are socially responsible. She also sent me a link to the video for A Day Without Dignity.
Watch below — it has great points, all of which I agree completely with, and the best part is that it doesn’t just criticize bad aid and donations but it gives a picture of what we can do.
“Why has it become so easy for people to start feel-good campaigns that nobody asked for?…”
At one point in the video (1:47), a quote from an aid recipient states that he/she doesn’t want handouts but rather work. It reminded me of Jessica Jackley’s TED Talk on Poverty, Money, and Love.
Jeremy also emailed me this morning saying that he had read my TOMS post and had been searching for socially conscious shoes, but it was difficult to find…and then suggested a good start-up website idea. Hmmm…
In the mean time, if you know of any shoe companies with good practices and impact, let us know!
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