As one of the best-known buy-one-give-one social enterprises, TOMS’s rise has been nothing short of meteoric. Its premise was disarmingly simple: for every pair of shoes someone buys, a second is donated to a child in need. And it’s made good on its promise. Since Blake Mycoskie founded the firm in 2006, TOMS has delivered more than 2 million pairs of shoes to children in impoverished communities in over 51 countries. Despite its largesse, TOMS hasn’t been without its detractors. Critics have censured the brand for slapping on bandaid solutions that create unsustainable aid-based economies and displace local shoemakers. And TOMS, it would appear, has been listening. At the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting in New York City late last month, Mycoskie announced that the company will manufacture new pairs of shoes in Haiti beginning January 2014.
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“TOMS is extremely proud and excited to make this commitment, and we would not be in this position if it wasn’t for President [Bill] Clinton’s ongoing leadership and inspiration,” said Mycoskie. “Three years ago at CGI the President asked me to help support the people of Haiti, and TOMS responded by giving hundreds of thousands of new pairs of shoes to children in need. Today, our dedication to Haiti is so much greater, and we look forward to creating jobs and opportunities in Haiti over the next several years.”
TOMS is looking to produce at least a third of its donated shoes in the geographic regions where they’re distributed.
At present, TOMS manufactures its shoes in China, Argentina, Kenya, and Ethiopia. According to Mycoskie, the firm is “actively seeking” to produce at least a third of its donated shoes in the geographic regions where they’re distributed, using local labor and local resources, by the end of 2015.
With Haiti, TOMS has made a five-year commitment to produce millions of shoes in the Caribbean nation. Its goal is an ambitious one: to work with Haitian president Michel Martelly, the Primature of Haiti, the Minister of Commerce and Industry, the Center for Facilitation of Investment, and the Advisory Council on Economic Growth and Investment to help grow a “responsible, sustainable” Haitian shoe industry.
TOMS has made a five-year commitment to produce millions of shoes in Haiti.
Initial production will take place in a dedicated 10,000-square-foot factory in Port-au-Prince. Mycoskie said TOMS expects to generate local partnerships to support infrastructure and workforce support systems for its employees, their families, and the community at large. To participate in operations and ensure fair wages and working conditions, TOMS executives will pay regular visits to the facility, he added. (No word on third-party oversight as yet.)
Its ongoing partnership with the Haitian Artist Collective in the creation of limited-edition shoes for retail will also continue.
“[This] marks a major milestone for TOMS, but we hope it means even more for the people of Haiti, who have had to endure so much over so many years,” Mycoskie said. “By making such a strong commitment and business investment, we hope to inspire other companies in the fashion and footwear industries to follow suit.”