In the last few years, doing good and helping others has become fashionable with companies clamoring to get on the do-gooding bandwagon. One of the more interesting efforts is the buy-one, give-one model, a concept most associated with TOMS shoes but which is quickly gaining additional corporate followers. And while it’s certainly hard to criticize any of these companies’ efforts, I can’t help but wonder if we might be overcelebrating.
This all sounds great, but upon further examination, I’m honestly not so sure. It seems to me that $160 (the cost of the two items) spent another way could do far more good than some shoes and a pair of specs. For instance, other organizations dedicated to providing glasses to the developing world have managed to drop the cost as low as $19 a pair. The $95 you’d use to buy a pair from Warby Parker could send more than four pairs to the developing world. Which leads me to this question: In supporting brands like TOMS, are we really trying to do good? Or are we just buying stuff that comes with a case of the warm-and-fuzzies?
Of course, there are other, more complex layers to this debate. As Carolina Vallejo has asked with her Design for the First World project: Who the heck are we to decide what other people need most? I’m not saying that shoes or glasses aren’t of value to any particular group of people. But are they more valuable than a new school, or clean water, or livestock, or pharmaceuticals? The truth is, I don’t know.
And while I think that TOMS’s Blake Mycoskie and those like him are doing fantastic things, I worry that someone who buys a pair of TOMS will consider their job done. They’ll feel good about their $50 shoe purchase, knowing they’ve just given a pair to a child in need when a donation of half that amount could have possibly helped that child in substantially more impactful ways.
Please don’t get me wrong: I applaud the efforts of these companies in adding a humanitarian component to their business. I, myself, am the proud owner of a pair of TOMS. I’m just saying that as with most things, the buy-one, give-one phenomenon isn’t quite as simple as it seems on the surface. The logical stance is that doing some good is better than doing nothing. I’m just wondering how much good we’re actually doing.
(By Joe Ippolito, via GOOD.is)