Sunday, November 11, 2012

Are Tom's Shoes Helping or Hurting?


  1. Aric,
    Thank you for this post. I really appreciate you tackling this issue in a concise broad overview and quickly bringing us to the conclusion that we need to do both, pull people out of the river and send people to stop whatever is pushing them in. Tom's does have an interesting partial process, where they are providing band aids, while not being able to prove their fair trade manufacturing process while manufacturing in countries with known bad report cards for international manufacturing. At the same time, if you need awareness, they're biggest downfall is not providing a post-purchase follow through. Great lens to look at this problem! Great thoughts.

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    1. I was really happy to open your post and see a blog post on TOMS! In fact, I have a few pair and have wondered the very same thing myself. Interestingly enough, I posted on the same dynamic this week. I'm going to include my link here if you'd like to take a peek: This week's blog focuses on the here and now vs. the root causes of climate change and whether or not acting in the here and now vs. looking at the roots causes have to be mutually exclusive? In my opinion, this division should not exist and is somewhat unrealistic given our current state of affairs. I do believe that individuals are making a difference on some level when they purchase TOMS, however, it does beg the question, does this "difference" appease our guilt regarding poverty or does it propel us into further action? Unfortunately, I would venture to say that FEW individuals take the time to move past the purchase into further action. I am left to wonder the very same thing after viewing films such an Inconvenient Truth or Forks Over Knives, or in reading books such as What is the What. For example, simple websites or action alerts could be connected to these films and books, in order to address our tendency to focus on the immediate present while allowing the future to fade into the past (i.e. watching the film, only to leave asking ourselves the following question: now what the hell I am supposed to do???.....)

  3. Aric,

    Such an interesting question-- something I've wondered about myself over the years (same with Kony 2012 and other similar "white-man's burden" ventures). Although my brain seems like a sieve at the moment, I can remember bits and pieces of reading I've done on the subject-- in particular, the story of Dr. Paul Farmer and Partners in Health in Haiti. Rather than simply giving medicines to patients, Dr. Farmer sought to provide communities with clean drinking water, jobs and infrastructure, that would not only make receiving the medical care easier, but also make it less likely for people to get sick in the first place.

    On the other side, I think of the organization I work for, Urban Gleaners, that rescues surplus food and delivers it to agencies that feed the hungry and elementary schools with high percentages of students living below the poverty line. The issue here, hunger, is of course caused by poverty. However, if we do not bring boxes of food to the schools each week for students to take home in their backpacks, they will indeed go home and have nothing to eat over the weekend.

    Sometimes band-aids are necessary to stop the bleeding and prevent infection. But what about removing all the glass from the sidewalk first, so that we don't cut ourselves? My goal at BGI is to help create some of these viable solutions to the root cause issues.

    Thank you for the very thought provoking and elegantly crafted post!

  4. Aric, this blog post certainly highlights the adage of giving a man a fish versus teaching a man to fish. Replacing multinational corporate hegemony with "local, living economies" would help to alleviate poverty everywhere. The question, then, is how to actually do this - this is the action piece of the puzzle. Our education at BGI will give us the tools to implement this kind of fundamental change, but it is still up to us to make use of those tools. Changing hearts and minds will not be easy, even our own. Bon courage!


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