TOMS founder, Blake Mycoskie.

TOMS Shoes: A Closer Look

TOMS founder, Blake Mycoskie, says there are millions of children around the world who are in need of shoes. He’s based his entire business model on this premise. Mycoskie’s for-profit company has enjoyed handsome gains by getting consumers to buy into his idea. In our story, we question whether Blake’s assumption is accurate and if it is, whether giving children free shoes is the best solution.

“It starts with a solution that we, or the donor, or the giver, thinks is appropriate,” Laura Freschi of New York University tells us. “That is, ‘We would like to give people shoes,’ which, in my opinion, is backwards because the way it should really start is with the person receiving to say, ‘Well, what is your priority? What is it that you need?’”

We also look at TOMS’ Giving Partners; non-profits the company works with to distribute its shoes to children around the globe.  As we started to compile a spreadsheet on TOMS Giving Partners, we were surprised to see the number of Evangelical groups that kept cropping up. This got us looking into Blake Mycoskie’s particular brand of Christian faith and how it may be informing the groups his company partners with and how they distribute TOMS shoes.

UPDATE: On Thursday, March 29th, 2012 TOMS’ Chief Giving Officer, Sebastian Fries, released a written statement in response to my story. TOMS submitted the statement to the public radio program, The World. The World had requested an interview with a TOMS representative in advance of an interview I did on Thursday with The World’s host, Marco Werman, about my TOMS story. TOMS did not provide The World with someone for an interview but instead released the following statement:

“While we welcome all opinions and points of view, we’re surprised that Amy Costello chose not to speak with, or include, any of our current Giving Partners for her segment, nor the numerous supporters of TOMS and our business model throughout the NGO and academic communities who have a more balanced assessment.

Regardless of the reporter’s suggestions, TOMS is a secular company. While we are constantly trying to learn and improve our approach, we’re extremely proud of what we have accomplished through the One for One model in such a short amount of time, and remain committed to giving shoes and helping give sight to people in need around the world.”

Missionary in Rwanda wears HOPE LOVE SAVE t-shirt while fitting TOMS shoes on child. (2010)

Missionaries in Rwanda wear Make Jesus Famous t-shirts while fitting TOMS shoes on children. (2010)

Bridge2Rwanda’s photostream on Flickr describes a TOMS shoe distribution largely confined to Christian schools within a single Evangelical Anglican diocese in Rwanda.

Girl from Honduras in wheelchair

Girl in Honduras with new Converse shoes is fitted with a TOMS Shoe. (June, 2011)

Links:

 

Saundra Schimmelpfennig has been offering critiques of the TOMS shoe model for years. Her story also provides a list of the work of others who have been writing about TOMS. Saundra also helped produce this video, which questions the need for shoes around the world.

Jezebel’s Irin Carmon wrote an article about Blake Mycoskie’s decision to speak at an event sponsored by Focus on the Family. Carmon’s story helped ignite debate and criticism about Blake’s connections to Evangelical organizations. Blake later issued this apology on his blog, but he’s since removed that apology from his blog.

We also spoke with Patrick Woodyard, founder of shoe company, Nisolo. His business model is based not on hand-outs but instead works with Peruvian shoemakers to bring their hand-crafted leather shoes to the US market.

Nisolo founder Patrick Woodyard (L) with one of the company’s shoemakers.

Nisolo shoemaker, Willan, working in his shop in Peru.

A pair of Nisolo shoes

TOMS Shoes:

The TOMS Shoes site is filled with photos, videos and blog entries about its work around the world.

TOMS’ Evangelical Giving Partners:

Bridge2Rwanda

World Vision

Hand of Hope

Heart for Africa

Hogar de Ninos Emanuel

Operation Blessing International

Feed the Children

Worldwide Village

We International, Inc.

If you’ve got ideas for a person, company or non-profit that we should cover in our next segment of A Closer Look, please let us know.

And tell us what you think of TOMS Giving Partners, the TOMS business model, and whether you believe companies can do good and make a profit at the same time.

90 Comments

  1. Sarah

    I’d like to point out (after I saw the comment about the shoes falling apart when worn in the rain) that the shoes sold on the site and the ones given are different. While the ones that are sold on the website are best for dry weather, the ones given to children have a thicker sole, and come in the classic canvas, a sport shoe, and a winter boot for cold climates. All of which are a more durable shoe than the ones you’d just go out and buy for yourself. They are meant for the children to wear them day and night. Sorry, but I read the comment from March and just couldn’t help putting it straight that they aren’t giving out crochets and the less durable shoes the woman said she was wearing in her dry climate area. I just thought it was ridiculous.

    Next, I’d like to point out that you can’t assume those are actually Converse on the girl in the wheelchair. There are so many super cheap knockoffs of every brand, including TOMS, Converse, and Keds, that you can’t just assume and think the worst of them because they’re giving a pair of shoes to a girl who may or may not have decent shoes. Because let’s face it. The knockoffs are aren’t that durable.

    And while I’ve read your responses to the company’s policy on doing business mixed with religion, I thought your article very biased and only one sided. It came off as slamming a company that gives shoes to children in need simply because they decided to mix religion into it. By the way, I doubt this would have gotten as much of your attention if someone was wearing a shirt with a = on the front. I realize the company policy is against it, but if I was in that great of a need of shoes, I wouldn’t give a single care if the lady handing me the shoes had on a shirt that said, “make Jesus famous”. Especially since some of the kids they were visiting were at Christian schools. HELLO, I’m sure they REALLY don’t mind it. Besides, why shouldn’t they give shoes to children from Christian schools? Should those kids be exempted from receiving shoes because they aren’t atheist? That’s a shame. Better tell them being religious means they can’t receive shoes.

    The case of not having enough shoes at the church? If they had enough shoes, their mission would be done. Don’t like that they don’t have enough for everyone? Maybe you should go buy a few pair so that a few more will go towards those children. And you can’t assume that they knew there would be 60 children and just thought, “Let’s only bring 30 so we can see how many kids we can disappoint.” There are some churches with less than ten kids in the entire congregation and some with sixty. I’m sure not every church in every country (especially in very poor communities in poor countries) has a super extensive member directory.

    And you know what? Blake shouldn’t have to apologize. The children receiving shoes are still children, no matter if they’re religious or not. Why does a policy matter so much? If it bothers you, don’t buy the shoes or work for the company and move on.

    I realize this post is from a while ago, but I was doing research for a school project and stumbled upon it. I though it very biased, which isn’t what journalism is supposed to be. I feel like this piece was unnecessarily harsh.

  2. Hi Amy,

    I have my own TOMS Shoe story to tell that I think further exposes the problems that these sorts of programs create. I am the founder of ChildVoice International whose mission is to restore the voices of children silenced by war. One Sunday morning at our project site in northern Uganda, I noticed a guy drive up in a World Vision vehicle just before the scheduled church service was about to start. I was standing talking to the local pastor when this guy came up and asked if he could give some shoes to the local children after the service was over. The pastor asked a couple of logistical questions and then quickly agreed. So just before he concluded the service, the pastor told the people gathered there that they were going to give shoes to the children. So he introduced the World Vision field worker (also a Ugandan) and then asked the children to come to the front and line up. Meanwhile, the WV guy brought about 30 shoeboxes and set up at the front. Between 50 and 60 children quickly lined up ranging in age from toddlers to adolescent boys and girls. It became clear very quickly that all the shoes were the same size, compounding the problem that there were twice as many children as there were shoes. As I watched this unfold, I was dismayed by the tears of disappointment on many of the children’s faces as they realized that they were either not going to get a pair of shoes because they would not fit or because they were too far back in the line. The WV field worker completed his distribution and asked the pastor to sign his form, noting that all the shoes had been properly distributed. After he drove off, our staff and others had to spend a long time comforting the children who had their hopes dashed by this distribution strategy intended to help alleviate poverty. I am sure that WV got a nice report from the field on another “successful distribution” that was passed on to TOMS Shoes. Based on my experiences (and we have made some of these same sorts of mistakes), these sorts of programs end up causing more harm than good. While I am happy to hear that TOMS Shoes is rethinking their strategies and are now going to set up a manufacturing plant in Haiti — providing jobs and infusing capital into the local economy, it still does not seem to be addressing some of the other critical problems with these “buy one, give one” schemes.

  3. Lynne

    Why surprise about TOM shoes greed ? First, it’s for-profit — and secondly it’s part of humanity. — Need more be said !?

  4. David

    Hi Amy,
    I throughly enjoyed your report, however, your contempt and bias towards evangelical philanthropists was puzzling and extremely disturbing.

    I found some of your points insightful and was challenged to consider the possibility that many traditional methods of ministry to the poor may be inefficient and lack a long-term sustainability.

    However, the report suddenly found itself on a slippery slope of criticism towards everything evangelical with little or no substance, not to mention relevance. Who cares that it is primarily evangelical Christians in some of the countries that are providing much of the support?

    And who elected the elite to determine what levels of poverty qualify for an outpouring of love and assistance? Even though the young girl you referred to in a wheelchair already had (apparently) a nice pari of shoes, why was it anathema that they blessed her with another pair of shoes? The fact that you used her as an example was in poor taste as you causally “assumed” she already had an adequate pair of shoes. Did it not occur to you that this particular need was not about shoes? I am quite sure that the love and attention she received was far more valuable to her than a pair of shoes.

    I don’t sense that you have a personal agenda or phobia towards Christianity, but I do suspect that you subscribe to an ever-increasing ideology of intolerance towards Christianity, especially if the flavor is Evangelical.

    We are experiencing a massive paradigm shift in our culture – one that predisposes a bias against Christianity; it’s influences, and even it’s philanthropy.

    A good journalist has the discipline to look beyond personal bias and relay the pertinent information, so that the intended audience can draw their own conclusions. Your disdain towards evangelicals tainted and even distracted from what was actually a great premise with the opportunity to engage and “spark” discussions about ways in which we might work more effectively in our efforts to help turn the tables on poverty and improve the lives of the poor.

    Sincere questions and criticisms about methodology would be readily accepted and considered by most evangelical organizations. I think everyone involved in ministry to the disadvantaged truly want to help, and would welcome honest criticism that would improve their work and impact world-wide.

    But you let your personal feelings slip into the story, and committed what old school journalists would consider a cardinal sin – becoming part of the story.

    Forgive me if this sounds condescending, I absolutely do not mean to lecture you. I perceive that you are an exceptionally talented and passionate journalist. I encourage you, I invite you to do some research and talk to some of the ministry organizations you mentioned in your story. Educate yourself on the magnanimous, miraculous and life-changing contributions these organizations have made “in the name of Jesus”!

    You see, true Christianity is not content with religious ceremony. Love, God’s love, compels us to serve one another – especially the poor, the orphan and the widow.
    As the scriptures teach us, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

    Examples of “less than stellar” organizations who call themselves Christian are probably not that hard to find. But I would challenge you to look deeper. The great majority of Christian ministry is made up of people who are committed – not obligated by religion, but compelled by love, compassionate about making a difference in our world.

    I look forward to your next thought-provoking program. Who knows, you just might discover a tiny spark that ignites a fire, bringing light to the dim pathway called humanity.

    Blessings,
    David

    • Amy

      David, I am copying this response to the one I made you on the Tiny Spark Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/tinyspark.org)

      I appreciate how eloquently you laid out your case. You did so in a respectful tone and I think your points are valid and your concerns merit further discussion. So thank you for that.

      I have actually responded in detail, and repeatedly, in this Comments section to the questions and criticisms you raise here. So please read below for my answers to many of your questions.

      In addition, I have traveled extensively in Africa and have seen the great work that many Christian organizations are doing around the continent. The reason I brought up the Evangelical organizations in the story is to show that shoe distributions were being carried out in a manner that was against TOMS company policy, which, last I checked, prohibits religious messaging during shoe distributions and prohibits shoe distributions to children on the basis of religious affiliation. It’s not a judgement or bias on my part, it’s simply evidence of a breach of company policy.

      To address your other point, the many photos of children wearing their own shoes while receiving TOMS Shoes calls into question the company’s premise that there are millions of children around the world who don’t have shoes. As you know, in my story, I ask whether this is actually true. Answering that question is vital because it’s the premise that (apparently) drives ten million consumers (and counting) to purchase TOMS Shoes, which is, it is important to remember, a for-profit company.

      Thank you again for taking the time to write and for listening to my podcasts. I sincerely hope you will continue to do so and that you will continue to send me your feedback.

      Respectfully,

      Amy

  5. rupert

    I’m sorry but this guy is a weird media wh*re. i have very little respect for or anyone who participates in reality television. it’s shallow and repulsive.

    it’s entirely fake. given the amount of times he’s tried to become a reality superstar…and the most disgusting type, a sleaze…. leads me to believe “Tom” is not doing this shoe thing because he’s a good guy. He loves the attention. It’s not about shoes or children. It’s about a convenient and trendy way to garner attention at the expensive of global poverty.

  6. Laura LaPerche

    Excellent work. While it may be unpopular to critique a brand like TOMS, TOMS asked to be held to a higher standard through it’s branding and social mission. There’s a line between really addressing a social problem and capitalizing on do-good feel-good branding. TOMS mobilized a lot of consumer power and it’s really a shame that they didn’t mobilize it to solve a more relevant problem more holistically. So many customers buy a pair of TOMS and feel like they’re changing the world, and that is great because consumer power does have the potential to solve social issues, however TOMS misleads its customers and dilutes the efforts of the whole social enterprise community. “Green-washing” has rendered company claims of “eco-friendly” meaningless, dye a cleaning product green and call it ecosomething and a consumer will think it’s “green” but admittedly will not understand how it’s better for the planet. “Good-washing” will do the same thing. There are companies like Nisolo and BCorps coming up with holistic solutions to social problems that actually make a sustainable impact, source their materials sustainably, produce their products ethically, and make high quality products that won’t pile up in landfills with the rest of fast fashion. If they can do it TOMS certainly can. No one is saying TOMS is bad but they should be better.

    • Amy

      Thank you for these thoughtful comments, Laura. The power of consumers is still an untapped resource and it’s also an area that needs a lot more scrutiny. We all want to know that our consumer dollars actually have the impact we are told they are having. This is an exciting time and the whole socially-conscious consumer movement is really still in its infancy. Yes, lots of opportunities for “green-washing” and the like but also a ton of opportunity to really have impact. Hoping my podcasts play a small role in helping us figure out how to get there. As always, I welcome your ideas for other topics that you think I should be exploring or investigating. Thank you for listening and for taking the time to write.

  7. Tania

    Hey, I live in China, my friends work in factories. People I know (not friends) even use Chinese factories and other countries factories to make their products then promote them as charities. And I have an issue with that and do not support their products. But the ENTIRE world uses companies in third world/developing countries to make products. Probablly half my clothes were sweat-shop made and I bet yours are too.

    But concerning your point about the religious aspect-can you just leave Christians out of it for once? What is this a witch-hunt? If a Jewish company went about giving to poor Jewish kids or even not-so-poor Jewish kids; noone would have an issue with it. Same with muslims, hindus…any other religion or any other social group be it LGBT or whatever. Noone would even bat an eye-lid.

    Can you imagine the riots you looked into a company founded on LGBT rights and said, indicating that it was not a good thing: “they only hired gay and lesbian volunteers to help out in the community?” thats discrimination. So is this. Let me shed some light on it though-about allowing only-christian volunteers in. 1. Certain people are hired for certain reasons. Im sorry, but I simply cant hire you to work in my icecream store if you are vegan and openly oppose icecream believing that the milk comes from slave cows, whose animal-rights we ignore. We have a certain way of working. We may even have to deal with milk products and you will have to too. 2. In certain organisations, certain work is done that may require a lot of ‘processing’ afterwards. A anti-trafficking charity I volunteered with told me that they would not have taken me on if I wasnt a believer because they had in the past, and the (spiritual and) emotional problems encountered by the volunteers from working there were imense and they could not process them the same way we did. They did not believe in God, had no spiritual walk and simply talking things through did not work. They were left a mess or would often leave after a short time. Now I understand that handing out shoes through a Christian organisation may not have that level of impact on a person; but I hope you can understand that it is not ‘leaving someone out’ but that requirement is often there to protect potential volunteers.
    Finally, I do appreciate your article as well as all the comments below it. I obviously found it because I was checking out whether Toms was not a shady deal. But I think at the end of the day, our time might be better spent if each person really helped one person, then the world would be a better place and company’s like Toms wouldnt have to exist where a few have to figure out how to do the bulk work for the majority. They cant be perfect, noobody is.

    • Taylor

      Amazingly well said.

    • Amy

      Hi Tania.

      Sorry if you consider my TOMS story a witch hunt! But I just need to clarify one thing: TOMS says it’s a secular company. If it wishes to endorse religious messaging occurring during shoe distributions, or if it wishes to support shoe distributions that only go to children associated with certain churches, they are absolutely entitled to do so. The company must simply amend its current company policy, which explicitly prohibits both of the above.

      Thanks for taking the time to write and hope you are enjoying your time in China.

  8. Heather Furlow

    This story had a good point when they suggested that helping local businesses in developing countries is a better long-term strategy to help the poor than giving out free shoes or other freebies.

    But then it quickly devolved into a bizarre detour where Toms was lambasted because a few of the organizations who gave out the shoes for them are Christian charities. As if the listener would surely be appalled by this shocking revelation as Amy apparently was.

    I’m not even a religious person, but the degree of bigotry towards religion in this story was just disturbing. The fact is in many parts of the world the groups doing much of the charity work are Christian organizations. In many countries, Christian aid groups are helping to build the schools, dig the wells, and provide clothes and education for children where no one else is doing it. Charity is just a part of their belief system, so that’s the result.

    Why should Toms be expected to harbor the same bias you have against a particular religion and not include Christian aid groups among the organizations that get to hand out their shoes?

  9. So happy to find your site and this podcast via HowSounds. Will spread the word about your stellar work!

  10. wen

    hi Amy,

    hey. im from Venezula in south america. look. i grew up seeing kids shoeless. sometimes it was becausr they were boys, because they prefered to be shoeless in the street, others because they did noy have shoes. fot any reason, i think that Toms idea is good.

    a day ago i was shoppinh for christmas. i saw a pair of toms shoes, they told me it was 1,150 bsF for them. i was so surprised that i yelled to the seller “and how many shoes arr you giving to the shoeless kids!?”. ok, $50 is somehow reasonable; if you will pay the same for a pair of converse anyway at least you can try to put that money in good hands. now, in venezuela a normal pair of sport shoes are 300bsF, so you must give at least 3 pairs of shoes to the shoeless kids. the seller did not even know what Toms was for. i felt insulted. just because this alpargatas come from USA then you can sell them for the price of a party dress, getting so much profit from them when the shoes are supposed to help shoeless kids.

    the Toms are supposed to be based in the alpargata indigenous shoes. well, the indigenous people in my country have wore those shoes for hundreds of years, the venezuelan miss universe wore them in the international contest, and i have never seen someone go so crazy for an alpargata to pay 1,000bsF for them (unless you are looking for the ex-miss universe ones).

    i have gone with venezuelan missionaries to give free food and clothing to empoverished communities. they makr the indigenous kids pray with them before giving the gifts. i dont think that is right. not because is bad to be catholic, but because it must not be a requirement to get into praying to receive a gift, anr those kids have their own culture and believes. my point is that religion is good for helping, but its requirements and protocol should not determine who or how help must be given.

    by the way, do not be surprise if the kids who received Toms sold the shoes later for a couple of dollars. it is a very common practice. better to be shoeless than hungry.

    i know that the developed countries want to help others. but sending money and free goods does not help. instead they are under the attack of companies which make them buy more expensive goods so to make the buyer believe that more money solves the problem.

    nomally, there is money. the problem is that the people who administrates the countries in need are just corrupted people. if more money is sent, more money will be stolen. if free goods are sent, poor people can dress and eat that day, but for how long? they however do not have jobs, or the one they have is not better paid.

    toms idea is noble, but does not solve anything. patricks idea is great, it cannot solve the life of everybody, but at least it can actually help a few.

    thank you for taking the time to post this.

    by the way, do not trust the girls shoes are actually converse. you can find pretty good imitations.

    wen.

  11. Ryley

    First, I’d like to thank you for introducing me to nisolo shoes.
    Unfortunately I do have to point out that even with my small experience with journalism, you exhibited some red flags of bias. Primarily only one side of the argument was presented. Their are numerous other people to talk to about TOMS besides Blake, including people who have been on TOMS giving trips, people who received the shoes, and those employed in countries such as Argentina and Ethiopia. I would really like to see a revised more complete version of this blog so that I could accurately gain an understanding of the impact.
    Also some details were unclear and could be misleading. Such as all shoes being sold in every country, does that mean they are available to everyone in every country? I would imagine that without fast moving transportation many people would not be able to go purchase shoes that are being sold outside of their community, but I am not sure which is why it is necessary to be clear. Also you spoke of one particular giving trip but did not clearify if the majority of TOMS giving trips were set out that way.

  12. I think the issue is not whether faith based organizations are involved in the distribution of toms shoes but to me it is whether the shoes are what is needed. I do work in Rwanda. Toms shoes hold up well if you find a dry day and you are hanging around with some ex pats at Bourbon Cafe. But when you notice that most of the population is agrarian, and it rans often, and there are very few roads in the folds or where the people who work those fields live, they need pretty resilient shoes. There is good reason why crocs knock offs are the shoe of choice. Those shoes protect you from the hard ground or the rocks. Those plastic shoes do not stay wet when you are out in the rain or the fields after the rain. Those shoes dont fall apart when worn day and night day after ling outdoor day. Those plastic shoes can be easily kicked off when you enter a home with a mat on the floor. Those shoes don’t burn if an ember from your open indoor fire sparks to your foot.
    So I love my Toms in my cozy dry western home but I actually think they are poorly suited to Africa. Should we applaud the effort to provide some shoes to the shoeless? Yes. But should we hope that the shoes they provide to the shoeless in Africa are different than the urbanites in the western world? YES.

    • Amy

      So great to get your on-the-ground perspective, Daphne.

      In the years ahead, it will be interesting to see how and if TOMS augments/redesigns its “giving pair” of shoes to better suit the local environments of recipients.

      Best,

      Amy

    • Annie

      My sister looked lives in India and does a lot of work with the children living in the slums around her. She looked in to getting TOMS for the kids and found that they are made sturdier than the shoes sold here and that the TOMS organization will go to the area the children are living in and examine their surroundings and determine if the children will get one pair of shoes or two per year. They also provide shoes for the kids for six years. At lease that is how she explained it to me.

      • Amy

        Wonderful, Annie. Glad to hear your sister was impressed with the TOMS approach. Please let me know if you receive an update from her.

  13. Brie

    Screw all of this nay-saying for Toms. The guy started a business (last I checked, you are free to do that in America), which is intended to make money (last I checked, making a living is exceptable too), but decided to give back as well. Heaven forbid he actually do what he started out to do. You can’t succeed in this world without someone trying to drag you down. He could have just made his trendy little shoes, and sold them for sheer profit (last time I checked, sketchers, adidas, crocs, or any other shitty, over priced shoes offered to give a pair to someone else). Pretty sure that being a Christian or giving to Christians is okay too. He is a private business owner and should be allowed to give to whomever he chooses- they are his shoes and it is his money!

    • Amy

      Hi Brie.

      I agree with most of what you said. Never in my story do I oppose the idea of starting businesses, of making money, or being Christian. However, there are other central questions I raise about TOMS’ business model, all of which are articulated in this comment thread and in the story itself.

      Thanks for listening and for weighing in.

      Respectfully,

      Amy

  14. DDK14

    First she complain that the shoes are given to the poor, then she opines because the people he gives them to aren’t poor enough or aren’t the right kind of poor.

    When my wife volunteered in Haiti she saw women working, walking through filthy, sewage ridden streets with flip-flops that had been worn almost to the balls of their feet. She also saw others who were actually wearing TOMS. Now, if TOMS were the only group helping, then this could be a problem. This is just nitpicking. Or more accurately witch-hunting.

  15. Ken Schindler

    Thanks for the interesting podcast. Although I have questioned TOMS before, I never thought about the stagnancy it creates in local communities and followed blindly in the self-aggrandizing act of touting my support of TOMS. The laptop I am currently typing on sports a TOMS sticker, a sticker that was included with my purchase of the shoes in addition to a TOMS flag. Although I do not practice Judaism myself, I have always liked Maimonides and his notion of Tzedakah, and I now see my failure in following his teachings. I researched the website a bit before buying them, and I noticed that many of the shoes were being manufactured in third party countries leading to my initial hesitation, but I was appeased by the TOMS website and its affirmations that the factories in which the shoes were made in China, Argentina, and Ethiopia practiced ethical business practices (http://www.toms.com/manufacturing-practices). I did not think about the effect it had on local economies.

    • Amy

      Ken,

      Thank you for this thoughtful reply. You’ve clearly done a lot of introspective work here. Deciding which companies and organizations to support is a complicated undertaking indeed. Wish it were simpler. But alas, it’s not.

      Best,

      Amy

  16. Angela

    This podcast is great Amy! I liked how you touched on the fact that the local economy of where they are being distributed ends up suffering. Thanks for the insight!

  17. Micah

    First off, criticizing a company based on the CEO’s religious belief is lazy. I’m have gay friends that still eat at Chik-Fil-A. They don’t care that it’s not pro-gay, they just want a chicken sandwich, and Chik-Fil-A’s is freaking delicious and affordable. Does TOMS partner with a large amount of Christian organizations? Well yeah, but it makes sense when you realize that most of those Christian organizations are already on the ground, they are already in the country, and that they are already doing work and building relations with the people in the country. It makes sense that they are giving out the shoes in Christian schools and churches, because those schools and churches serve more than one purpose in third world communities. My family went to a small villaige in Haiti, and their church is their school, their town center, it is shelter right next to their well, and the place where town meetings are at. Giving shoes at a Christian school is no more significant than my church meeting in a public school here in the united states. They are simply buildings with more than one purpose. And about people proselytizing while handing out the shoes, doing good while expecting nothing in return will always be preaching at people until you run out of breath. Many of these communities are already Christian to begin with, so you can hardly call that proselytizing when you’re simply preaching at the choir. Sure, some of these people are likely preaching when they shouldn’t be, but it’s not the preaching that will convert people. It’s selfless action for no other purpose than to help that will convert people to an idea, be it Christian, or Islam, or whatever belief someone might follow. Even if they are handing out needed materials, shoving Jesus down peoples throat will just turn them off, and that should hardly be a concern to anyone but the people preaching.

    • Robbie

      Thanks for your comment, Micah. I couldn’t agree more.
      What difference does it make what religion a person practices when it comes to helping the poor? And the reality is, there are far more Christian and other religious organizations out there doing non-profit work than non-religious.
      I say that TOMS should give out the shoes wherever they can and people who aren’t doing anything to help the poor can keep their mouths shut about it.

  18. Kam

    Oh and if people want to complain about the TOMS company, why don’t you go ahead and complain about all the millions of other manipulating, attention-seeking, money-grabbing companies there are in the world.

  19. Anna

    TOMS is doing a really good thing! Studies show that people want to give to those in need, and TOMS allows people to do that. TOMS is doing their part to help a world that is in need and its fantastic to see that! This world really needs to stop pulling others down and just start helping each other! I always say no one has a right to comment on another persons life or business unless they know them real well or work for the person concerned!!

    • Dustin

      I agree with what you are saying about people needing to help more but I think that you should look at that word, help, it means to do something good I don’t believe that TOMS does that think of the local shoemaker that understands the geography of the land and knows the shoes to make because of it TOMS unfortunatly puts him out of business with shoes that are less durable and probably won’t last half as long as the shoes that he would’ve made and now he can’t provide for his family and any workers that he might of had

      And for comment on your saying I that think you forget that TOMS is a public business and therefore allows and encourages public debate about itself as does anything that goes to the public eye if people didn’t share ideas about things then they don’t improve “there’s wisdom in a alot of councilors” as the saying goes

  20. Onur Can

    I do not like these business model.IMO It is so evil and terrible, taking advantage of child innocence and using this as a marketing tool!!! People do not need to deliver 2 dollar shoes to these poor kids but other basic needs if they do they should not put this everywhere. you do not do a good for publicity. you just do good or do not. shame on you the owner, stop exploiting these kids and if you really wanna help there are other ways, no one needs branded shoes and shoes have app 2 dollar cost which can be given without getting average 54 dollars.

    • Kam

      Well it seems like the kids enjoyed it. Don’t you think that’s sort of all that matters? The kids in front of a camera, smiling. That’s enough to convince me that they’re not ONLY in it for some scheming, profitable plan.
      Maybe he is overdoing it with all the publicity but at least the kids seem happy.

  21. Julyana

    There are so many ways to assist sincerely and compassionately. I suppose giving not-so-sturdy free shoes is one way. But why does he have to make such a fuss about it?
    And any chance he might be willing to donate to NY Public schools from the extreme profit these flimsy shoes earn? Maybe he could do it without all the press?

    • Mary

      I’ve done quite a lot of research about TOMS and as far as I am concerned, TOMS does not do any advertising. Its only marketing channel is its webpage and social media, besides that they rely on word-of-mouth.

  22. I don’t support evangelical organizations that go to third world countries and proselytize faith while “doing good”. It’s a personal choice grounded in my own beliefs reasons that need only make sense to me.
    Tom’s has no obligation to operate their program to meet my or anothers viewpoints or preferences but they should be at least forthright with regards to their partners in distribution.
    I don’t want to support any group that furthers an evangelical mission.
    Knowing that Tom’s partners with such groups helps me make an informed pocket-book decision.

    Thanks Amy!

  23. Ralph M

    Thank you for this wonderful piece of reporting. Not enough can be written about the bankruptcy of the ‘buy one, give one’ model. I look forward to following your future endeavors.

  24. Nicole

    Amy, great podcast. It really got me thinking as I’ve always viewed Toms as a company doing good the right way. It’s interesting to hear some of the larger issues and how that changes my thought process as a consumer. I felt there were so many more stories I wanted you to explore as I listened and I am eagerly awaiting your next story!

  25. Mark

    The only thing that is really revealed in this posting is a personal lack of tolerance for religious institutions. That is a personal choice, but as a general business practice, it is an unwise, superficial limitation to business solutions and markets.

    Secondly, I appreciate that you are interested in the business of social entrepreneurs, but this article also demonstrates that you have little to no practical understanding of the issues surrounding the administration of charitable benefits in third world countries. Specifically, you haven’t taken the time to research why many companies (and governments) work with religious institutions and religious non-profits to administer charitable goods of all sorts – from shoes to medical supplies to food. I would maybe take the time to understand the role of religious institutions in countries that have especially serious issues dealing with corruption and territory disputes. Within these contexts, religious institutions and organizations are often the only entities who are in a position to deliver goods or services.

    Additionally,from corporate budgetary perspective, I think there is something to be said about the outsourcing benefits of working with these types of organizations. What would be more interesting to read about would be the business models regarding businesses like TOMS. It’s very difficult to make a profit while also doing good in the world, and I think social entrepreneurs struggle with that issue more than issues of religious intolerance.

    • Amy

      Thanks, Mark. This piece never criticized faith-based organizations as a whole. Obviously there are plenty that are doing vital work around the globe. However, I hope to explore that story, and some of the issues you raise here, in another podcast. When I do, I would welcome your feedback and assessment of how I cover the larger issues you’ve raised.

  26. Glenn

    So disappointing to have this kind of attack journalism on PRX – my favorite radio station. No longer.

    What’s the point of bashing Tom’s Shoes because the CEO is a *GASP* Evangelical Christian. That must totally invalidate anything good he does right? Says more about you than it does about him.

    Sad – just sad.

    • Amy

      Hi Glenn. This story is about many issues regarding TOMS shoes and its aid model. The one you’ve raised here is hardly the most important among them and certainly is not the main reason to question the efficacy of the TOMS aid/business model.

  27. Tracy

    Is there any way to DOWNLOAD this? I don’t live in the 1% of the world where you can stream stuff over the Internet connection. I’d love to listen to this, but it is inaccessible.

    • Amy

      Hi. We’re now up on iTunes. If you hit “subscribe” at this link, you should be able to download the podcast:
      http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/tiny-spark/id505053432

      In addition, the player at the top of this page should now allow a “download” option. But for now, iTunes may be your best bet. This is a new podcast, so I’m still ironing out a few kinks. Thanks for your patience and I hope you can listen from wherever you are!

  28. W. Kiser

    You know, we get appropriately upset when those on the Right try to smear companies and other entities because they (as an example) might support Planned Parenthood and seek to discredit that terrific organization by tying everything to abortion. It seems to me that in this piece a pall being cast over good (albeit imperfect) work being done here because TOMS has evangelical partners. I think we must be VERY CAREFUL to not fall pray to the politically attractive one rubric (abortion is bad, therefore Planed Parenthood is bad…or TOMS is bad because Christianity is bad) in looking at these sorts of issues.

  29. Tom Allen

    Both development work and journalism can be done well or poorly, but they must both be done,… even if poorly. The NYU DRI lead speaks of your “struggle to get to the bottom of it all.” How difficult would it have been for you to contact Bridge2Rwanda and inquire about B2R’s actual work in the field (which cannot be fairly characterized as “evangelical”). Faith explains “why” B2R team members and volunteers are motivated to do what they do; but it does not explain the “what” or the “how” of their actual field work in business development, education, health, etc. Are faith motivated people to be excluded from development fields?

    Amy, you actually reported that “Several current and past TOMS employees working in its Giving Department have ties to evangelical organizations.” O.K? And what if “several employees” of an enterprise have ties with the Communist Party, or PFLAG, or JDL?

    In fairness, you and your listeners should understand that (1) Rwanda’s culture is thoroughly Christian. The “national curriculum” taught in ALL schools (very poor and not-so-poor) includes “Christian Education.” (2) The song “I Want to Walk Like Jesus” was already known by the children who spontaneously sang it, without prompting, because that is their culture. (3) Sonrise School was established by a Rwandan following the 1994 Genocide to care for and educate orphans of the genocide. The fact that the school and its students have performed so well does not mean that they are not poor.

    Although your criticism of TOMS Shoes is not new, it makes some very well-founded points. Bridge2Rwanda shares your concerns about sustainability and development of local manufacturers and vendors. But criticism remains much easier than doing and getting it right.

    “It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.” Theodore Roosevelt

    Yes, Patrick Woodyard’s model and strategies are to be applauded and preferred. Blake may have “come up short.” But we must grant Blake his due: He jumped in; he tried; he most certainly raised awareness in a culture which is desperately in need of it; and he has made a greater difference than his armchair critics.

    There is so much work to be done. It is so easy to become discouraged. Let us encourage one another and let us be circumspect, fair and gracious with our criticisms. And let us not reject or attempt to exclude anyone because they are motivated by faith. Aren’t we all?

    Tom Allen
    Bridge2Rwanda, Country Director

  30. Joel Toppen

    Having visited Bridge2Rwanda’s offices in Kigali as well as the Sonrise School in Musanze (where I saw stacks of TOMS shoes), I found your story very interesting. To my mind, the critique about market displacement is much more compelling–and important–than any concern about Jesus t-shirts worn by volunteers. Also, Laura Freschi’s point about who controls the agenda is spot on. NGOs are accountable to donors and not to those whom they intend to help. So why would we expect them to advance the interests of the latter rather than the former?

  31. Anthony Obeyesekere

    Very interesting podcast. Glad to have chanced upon it. Kudos to Easterly for the twitter reference. Looking forward to future podcasts.

  32. Oliberte is also doing great work manufacturing shoes in Ethiopia for the US market, similar to Nisolo.

  33. Effer

    Loved the podcast! Interesting to see the evolution of Blake from reality show hopeful to Christian philanthropist. Keep up the good work letting folks see the whole picture!

  34. Margaret

    I really appreciated this as it brought up something that I noticed that he might be using the (unfortunately) trendy movement for young people to be socially conscious to promote his recognition/fame/attention getting. It reminds me of this former survivor contestant who has started a charity called i am that girl, i don’t even know what it is about? or what they do? It all seems vague. as opposed to tom’s which actually does good.

    Also, just because they do so well doesn’t mean they couldn’t do better, this might help them reevaluate some of their practices and strive to be an even more efficient and fair giving machine!

  35. Lee

    Amy: I was so very happy to discover your podcast this afternoon via PRI’s The World. The whole Kony2012 movement really opened my eyes to the complexities of our humanitarian impulses and your TOMS report heightened my awareness of these crucial questions. I am now a fan and will be a regular listener from now on. I love the idea presented above to buy good shoes at half the price and then send the difference to an organization that is helping in the best way.

    • Amy

      Thank you, Lee. There certainly is lots of territory to explore in this sector and I am delighted that you will continue to listen in. Look forward to hearing your feedback on future episodes!

  36. Lilly Dimling

    Amy-

    I really do appreciate this report. There are never simple solutions to development, and the link between religion and development is frightening to me. I especially liked hearing from the young man who said the distribution he participated in seemed awkward and he felt no connection to the community. This is not a sustainable model and it perpetuates the white man savior myth that negates true development efforts.

  37. I was initially quite conflicted when I caught wind of your report online, and some of the social commentary from folks on Twitter that followed. Social entrepreneurship and corporate social responsibility are avenues to incredible change, and I was concerned an attack on a company that was doing good, but not doing good enough – or doing it right – could contribute to a dialogue of social disengagement on the part of corporations.

    However, I have to say you did an incredible job in evaluating TOMs’ efforts in a detailed and fair manner. While some folks are clearly upset by the report, it is in no way an attack on their efforts – or a commentary on their intentions. However, it is more important than ever that we evaluate the true success of one-to-one programs.

    While TOMs’ one-to-one model is garnering lots of attention these days, there are other proven models – like Ben & Jerry’s Linked Prosperity efforts – that show there are real benefits, albiet at times unsexy, when you address local economies on the ground and support an entire supply chain, as opposed to directly delivering aid top down.

    Your report also highlights the importance of independent audit reports. Many socially conscious corporations pay for annual independent audits of their efforts as a way to not only measure their success – which they use to pivot and enhance their impact – but also to demonstrate in a transparent way exactly what is happening.

    Certainly no one likes to feel they are the focus of an investigative piece, but it does concern me when a company doesn’t, for whatever reason, decide to take to the public stage and engage in a dialogue around their efforts, their impact, and their mission as a whole.

    Very happy to have discovered your work.

  38. Serena Mackey Hicks

    I wonder if there’s a larger percentage of “faith based” organizations on the ground and running programs that connect TOMS to those in need, and that’s why there are a large number of TOMS partners “in the faith.” It may have less to do with trying to evangelize and more to do with who is plugged into the countries already.

    • Amy

      Hi Serena. You make an important point. According to the World Health organization, faith-based orgs provide between 30%-70% of health care in developing countries. So you’re absolutely right, faith-based groups are providing critical work in many parts of the world and doing so admirably. However, what I point out in my story is that TOMS is partnering with Evangelical organizations specifically, and I found evidence that some of those partners are bringing the message of Jesus during shoe distributions, which is against TOMS company policy, and I also question whether children in need may be overlooked when certain shoe distributions take place at Christian schools and Christian institutions. TOMS says it is a secular company and prohibits its partners from making decisions about who receives TOMS shoes based on their religious or political affiliations.

      • Bob

        I think the problem here is that there are just too many points in this article that it is difficult to understand what specifically you are trying to highlight. Obviously, one’s personal beliefs should not make a difference, unless those personal beliefs are being imposed on others as a condition of the ‘aid’. Faith-based organizations are fine – as long as they are not bringing their message as a condition. Africa and India are littered with Evangelical aid ‘projects’, where the actual aid project has failed, but the church developed alongside seems to be operating fine. A perfect example of the effects is in Uganda – in the 90s, Uganda was the poster country for combating Aids through their ABC approach (Abstinence, Be faithful, and use a Condom) — however, in recent years, the ‘C’ has been dropped due to religious influences funded via aid projects. They are now one of the fastest growing countries for Aids cases. Some evangelical groups do not bring their message as a pre-condition – the distinction needs to be made.

  39. Adam

    I’m sorry but this is bad journalism. Like really bad. It appears you have it out for TOMS and their founder. You have never even interviewed Blake, but you make assertions that he’s chasing media attention and fame. What does that even mean?

    Because he was on a reality TV show that means he chased media attention?

    Then you talk to a guy who hasn’t gone on shoe drops with TOMS to give his opinion on his experience with another organization? What does his experience have to do with what TOMS does?

    How many secular programs has TOMS worked with? You don’t mention that at all? Why not?

    • Adam

      In addition, where do you get the notion that TOMS has sold 2 million pairs of shoes?

      I believe that is inaccurate as well.

      • Amy

        Hi again Adam. When he was interviewed on the Kojo Nnamdi show in September, Blake said his company had just given away its two millionth pair. I have found no announcements that the company has sold 3 million pairs yet.

    • Amy

      Hi Adam. I think anyone who appeared on reality television (twice) is interested in the media and in media attention. I tried several times to interview Blake, or anyone from TOMS, and those requests were declined. I included Patrick Woodyard in my story because he considered the Buy One, Give One model and decided, for a variety of reasons – which he articulates very well in the podcast – why he decided to go a different route. I’d say the combination of his experiences on a shoe drop, working with people in poverty, his experience in microfinance, and his decision to create a company that would, if successful, financially empower communities, is a story worth including and stands in contrast to Blake and the TOMS model. I, like you, was interested in knowing how many secular organizations TOMS has partnered with but that information is not readily available on their website, so far as I can tell. Unless things have changed since my last visit to the site, you will not find a list of its “Giving Partners” in one single place. By my count, they’ve partnered with approximately 6-7 secular organizations and at least 8 Evangelical ones. Perhaps there are more secular or Evangelical ones…but that’s what I was able to garner to date. And in my story, I do mention that TOMS has partnered with “many” secular organizations over the years.

  40. Ann Nichols

    I watched Tom’s rep checking the children’s shoes two weeks ago in Addis Ababa for wear and tear at African Services Committee clinic. The words I just heard about Tom’s on “The World”, were most distressing to me, for as an observer, over several years, I only see children, once barefoot, now in shoes that are updated each year to achieve longer wear. In fact, at my Unitarian church (no dogma), I spoke of the help Tom’s had given the clinic’s children. Ann Nichols, Morrisville, Vermont

    • Amy

      Ann, it’s great to hear about your first-hand experience in the field with TOMS. I know an important part of TOMS’ mission is to give children shoes over a period of many years, so I’m very pleased to see that you observed that being carried out.

  41. tony m john

    I think you are lampooning evangelical christians.
    Giving is good and if in the name of God even better.
    Faith is a matter of individual choice,and wearing a few T Shirts and so on do not influence,its the life of missionaries that have made a transformation in cultures around the world.

    • Amy

      Thanks for weighing in. I’m not clear what part of my reporting came across as “lampooning”?

    • It sounds like FOTF epsaks speaks out against issues that displease God. There is nothing wrong with a foundation that stands up for what’s right. It seems that’s what Blake Mycoskie was trying to do, and as soon as word got out, and people started hating him for it, he changed his tune. It’s a shame. The world doesn’t revolve around us, it revolves around God.

  42. roselie

    Amy,

    The exploration of this topic is something that most of us in development do amongst ourselves but rarely encounter otherwise. I think the reason is that, as you said in a few of your replies, there are so many complex factors that come into play with socially-oriented ventures: Motivation; compassion; needs assessment; questioning assumptions; re-evaluating along the way; the influence of partners; shared values; turning a blind eye; proselytizing recipients of aid- to name a few covered so succintly through your reporting.

    As a practitioner of social entrepreneurship awareness building and training, I want to thank you for bringing to light the complexity of this type of development practice and for the balanced approach you have taken to evaluating the many perspectives shared by your readers.

    I agree that “doing something” is NOT always better than doing nothing…it usually is, but that’s not a given. All of us need to dig deeper and assess where we spend our charity dollars. I agree that Tom’s Shoes has had a tremendous impact on awareness building among consumers that we have a choice to make regarding how we spend our resources. I’ll admit that Tom’s was one of the case studies we incorporated into a recent training program. I hope, as you suggest in your article, that Tom’s will, indeed, take an introspective step and re-evaluate its business model by reconsidering the concerns raised in your work.

    The graphic tees with the proselytizing messages were disturbing and such practices make those development workers who are not motivated by growing the fold to be suspect in many foreign communities, which often undermines their credibility unjustly. I can say this from experience.

    • Amy

      Roselie,

      Wow, it’s really great to hear from someone who’s wrestled with these issues while working in the field. As you say, socially-oriented ventures are complex, which also makes them inherently rich for discussion and exploration.

      It’s interesting to hear your on-the-ground insights into the ways in which the projects of non-religious development workers can sometimes be jeopardized by the actions of proselytizers who precede them…I hadn’t considered that possibility before.

      Thank you for taking the time to share your experiences and hope you will continue to do so as we move forward with our reporting on this sector!

  43. Christine

    Many thanks for sharing this story Amy. My kids have persuaded me to buy many pairs of (overpriced) TOMS based on their philanthropic message. Had I known that they do this work in conjunction with evangelical partners, I would not have bought the shoes especially if the donations are based on faith rather than need. It also concerns me (and I hadn’t considered this aspect) that the local economy is suffering as a local shoemaker cannot obviously compete with free handouts. Keep up the excellent reporting.

    • Amy

      Thanks, Christine. Aid and entrepreneurship are complex ideas to execute on the ground. It will be interesting to watch the “Buy One, Give One” model in the next several years to see how it changes and evolves as lessons are learned in the field…hope to follow this evolution in future podcasts.

  44. Well done, Amy! I particularly appreciate the suggestion offered by one of your interviewees that if you really want to help people out (and buy yourself a pair of shoes), buy a pair for half the price of Tom’s and then give the rest of the money to a local organization or people on the ground in the country of need. The Toms’ model keeps us consumers: first buy then help. It’s more about assuaging guilt of the consumer and/or satisfying the human desire to empathize and help, but in a super lazy way, if you ask me. Love the idea of promoting shoemakers in those countries instead…maybe true help in that sense would be helping to develop a local market for those local shoes, if shoes truly are the need.

    • Amy

      Thanks, Hannah. I like your idea of having local shoemakers filling the need for shoes in various places around the world! A nice hybrid of TOMS and Nisolo…

  45. Alison

    Nice piece of reporting. So glad that real journalism is still alive and well. ‘Cause some of us worry, ya know?

  46. bill

    Maybe it isnt the best solution, but isnt it at least a good start? If the business model is adopted by more business startups and established companies, then that is a good thing? do appreciate your work.

    • Amy

      Hi Bill.

      You raise an important question and it’s one that deserves serious consideration. I think many people would agree with you; that TOMS has raised awareness about global poverty and has galvanized some two million consumers into using their purchasing power to try and do a little something about it.

      However, when it comes to “doing good” I think we often accept that doing “something” is better than doing nothing. I’m not convinced.
      Those who say they’re executing a social mission of some kind are often given a free pass to carry out their initiatives, often in other parts of the world, and usually — in my opinion — not enough tough questions are asked. You’ll be hard pressed to find any critical coverage of TOMS in the mainstream media.

      I think this is due in part to our reluctance to meaningfully critique efforts that “do good”. I think there’s a fear that these critiques are somehow mean-spirited or unfair. But given the fact that the non-profit sector alone is worth a trillion dollars, and there is little government oversight of non-profits, I think it’s vitally important to look closely at organizations, corporations and individuals who are entering this sector every day.

      I have no doubt that the TOMS of today will look very different from the TOMS of five years from now. Undoubtedly, the company will tweak its mission, strategies and goals according to the feedback it receives from consumers and aid recipients. But I still have to question the merits of giving out free shoes to communities, for all the reasons I explored in my story. And the Buy One Give One model is all about giving things out for free. It’s not bad to give people things, but I do think it’s important to constantly seek out answers to the kind of impact business models like TOMS and its donations are having on the ground.

      Thanks again for taking the time to write and to listen. I hope you will continue to do so!

      • I am surprised that the fdnuoer founder of Tom’s would associate so closely with an anti-gay, pro life group since Tom’s advertise that they are helping the underdogs and underprivileged of society. The gays are the target of bigoted people and and I am not clear exactly what the fdnuoer’s founder’s Statement did to assure all of us that he is indeed for equal rights and treatment for every person. I shall not purchase Tom’s shoes again

  47. Phu

    Sometimes something seems like a good idea but does not solve or reduce a problem. Nice shoes and still hungry? I’d pick food any day. And this religious affiliations is underserving those who are marginalized by those organizations themselves. Totally wrong!!!

    • Amy

      Yes, Phu, often the simpler solutions are the more appealing ones. Unfortunately, simple solutions are rarely as effective as more complex ones, especially when it comes to tackling issues like global poverty. Thank you for listening!

  48. venus

    Heard you on TMB this morning. THANK YOU for your investigation. i have been suspicious for some time, after seeing the number of people who were so keen to be a part of the ‘Tom’s movement’, blindly and without question. i’m grateful for any information that reveals more about this company (and others like it)! Thanks again.

    • Amy

      Thanks, Venus. In the months ahead, I hope to take a look at other initiatives, so stay tuned!

    • Seems there is a little bit more to Tom’s ivoelnemvnt involvement with Focus On The Family in its 2010 Giving Report, TOMS talks about working to “establish shoe-giving partnerships with humanitarian organizations worldwide that have deep experience and long-term presence in the countries and communities they serve. Though the report doesn’t specify who TOMS is seeking to partner with, according to Christianity Today, one organization is Focus On The Family. The anti-gay, anti-choice, anti-evolution, definitely anti-gay-marriage (as its guiding principles make clear) organization is “working to become a TOMS international distributor in Africa.”I usually don’t care about things like but I have to say it seems Tom’s ivoelnemvnt FoTF goes way beyond the panel he spoke on And it’s pretty disturbing. I encourage a follow up article!

  49. Berlinda

    I admire TOMS and it’s attempt to meet the simplest of needs to those with the greatest of need. I’ve traveled overseas to some of these regions and know the importance of partnering with those who have already made inroads…be it Christian or not.

    • Amy

      Thanks for taking the time to write, Berlinda. It certainly is admirable when individuals or companies try to help the world’s most vulnerable. And there are many Christian organizations around the world doing great work. However, TOMS is partnering with Evangelical organizations and I found evidence that some of them, in some cases, are bringing the message of Jesus during shoe distributions. This is against TOMS company policy. And I found that in some instances they are bringing the shoes to children who attend Christian schools and churches. What about the other children in need who are not attending those schools and churches?

      • First of all who cares if the ceo is pro choice or not. And sinpkaeg speaking before an organization does not negate all the good this company has done. Obviously someone didnt do their research, but hey we all make mistakes and he acknowledged it. So if you endorse the one for one idea, keep wearing whatever shoes you choose.

  50. Sue

    Very interesting story. Thanks for taking a closer look at this company.
    Maybe their motto should be changed to “buy one, give one and get one–if you’re Christian.”

    • Amy

      Thanks, Sue. I hope the company will take a closer look at the actions of some of its Giving Partners so that any child will be eligible for a pair of TOMS regardless of his or her religious affiliation.

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