Information and news about sustainability

TOMS Shoes Haiti production
Founded in 2006, TOMS Shoes quickly gained mainstream popularity largely because of its socially responsible, feel-good, “one for one” model of operation. Under this model, TOMS gives away a pair of shoes to someone in a developing country for every sale of their retail shoes. However, TOMS has also come under fire over this same model that has fueled its popularity. Critics argue that donating shoes to people in developing countries can hinder economic growth by undercutting local producers.

At the 2013 Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie announced his plans to begin manufacturing some of the company’s shoes in Haiti, starting early next year. This five-year investment will initially employ 50 local workers, with a goal of doubling this amount by the end of the year. This initiative comes in addition to TOMS’ existing Haiti Artist Collective program, which partners with 31 local Haitian artisans to design and hand-paint custom shoes for sale on the company’s website.

In addition to creating living wage jobs for people in Haiti, TOMS aims to provide healthcare, education and early childhood support to its factory employees by partnering with local organizations. Throughout the process, TOMS vows to oversee working conditions in Haiti and ensure that fair wages are being paid.

TOMS currently produces its shoes in China, Argentina and Ethiopia, and exports them to impoverished places. According to Public Radio International, Mycoskie has pledged that TOMS will produce at least one-third of its shoes in the countries where they are being donated to by the end of 2015. This will help build a more a sustainable, locally minded shoe industry in the countries the company serves.

After donating more than 10 million pairs of shoes to people in need, Toms is shifting its focus to targeting the causes of poverty, rather than providing temporary solutions to its complex effects.

– Tara Young

Sources: Toms Shoes, Miami Herald, Slate
Photo: HaitiLuxe Blog

Corporate Social Responsibility
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a term that is becoming more and more common in the workplace. According to Mark Whitman of Sustainable Business Forum, a study by MIT in 2011 showed that sustainability is a permanent part of about 70 percent of corporate outlines.

This is more important than just adjusting for corporate philanthropy. As it turns out, Whitman said, doing good is good for business as well. There are several large benefits of CSR.

1.) Corporate Social Responsibility is good for business:

According to Better Business Journey, a Small Business Consortium from the United Kingdom, “88% of consumers said they were more likely to buy from a company that supports and engages in activities to improve society.” Furthermore, according to Simply CSR, customers do not accept “unethical business practices,” and using CSR methods can effectively increase customer retention and win business that is entirely new.

According to One4All, an organization committed to informing companies about CSR, a Harvard University study found that companies that are stakeholder-balanced “showed four times the growth rate and eight times employment growth when compared to companies that focused only on shareholders and profit maximization.” As it turns out, important stakeholders expect corporations to become socially responsible. Customers, consumers, and investors expect a corporation to “understand and address” relevant social issues.

2.) Talented employees want Corporate Social Responsibility:

Aside from customers, practicing CSR helps a company retain valuable employees as well. Whitman said that 53 percent of workers said that “a job where I can make an impact” was necessary to maintain workplace happiness. Furthermore, Whitman said, 35 percent would take a pay cut “to work for a company committed to Corporate Social Responsibility.”

According to Jeanne Meister for Forbes, “employees now want more from their employer than a paycheck. They want a sense of pride and fulfillment from their work, a purpose and importantly a company’s whose values match their own.” She said CSR is crucial to attracting talented employees to a corporation.

3.) Implementing Corporate Social Responsibility sets you apart from your competition:

Simply CSR said that using Corporate Social Responsibility improves a business’s reputation and standing within public forums. Companies that strive for a unique ethical standpoint are set apart from the rest in the eyes on consumers, according to John Paluszek of the Santa Clara University Markkula Center for Applied Ethics. Branding an organization as ethical builds a positive reputation.

In an interview with Forbes in May, Garratt Hasenstab, Director of Sustainability at the Verdigris Group, a real estate development and consulting firm, said that they save money by operating efficiently, but that they believe setting a good example is the greatest benefit. They have inspired other organizations to do the same, Hasenstab said.

“Our CSR policy is at the core of our daily operations and guides our future progress,” Hasenstab said. “Our clients want to work with us because we are focused on a healthier and more productive world.”

– Alycia Rock

Sources: Simply CSR, Forbes, Sustainable Business, One4All CSR, Forbes Corporate Responsibility
Photo: Global MED