My column this week is on the one-to-one businesses, TOMS being the most well-known, sprouting up all over the place. But before you go shoe shopping with a big, guiltless smile on your well-intentioned face, read a bit about some of the important distinctions between different types of approaches. An excerpt:
To begin with, giving a kid a pair of shoes manufactured elsewhere undermines the economic vitality of that kid’s community, as many bloggers have noted. Further, as Saundra Schimmelpfennig, a blogger at Good Intentions Are Not Enough, points out, shoes are already manufactured fairly cheaply in countries like Argentina, where Mycoskie was traveling when he decided to start TOMS. Expanding the manufacturing industry in poor countries is often seen as critical to their economic future, and offering children free shoes from an American company can undermine that. Why not provide a resource kids can’t find locally?
Schimmelpfennig writes: “TOMS Shoes is a good marketing tool, but it’s not good aid.” She has a long list of reasons, including: “It’s quintessential Whites in Shining Armor. It’s doing things ‘for’ people, not ‘with’ people.”