TOMS work in Turkey shows people can ‘respect’ a company
If an individual with a high social awareness becomes an entrepreneur, what happens? Can that person help solve social issues with the same methods applied in the business world? Can a person help make a change with the job they are doing?
The founder of the TOMS brand, Blake Mycoskie, has proved that this is possible.
In a trip to Argentina in 2006, Mycoskie noticed the difficulties faced by children who grow up without shoes. He founded TOMS in order to give a new pair of shoes to any child in need - for every pair of shoes sold.
To do this, he found local producers and asked them produce the local “Alpargata” shoes of Argentina. TOMS’ slogan is “One for One,” as for every product sold one person is helped. In Mycoskie’s words, TOMS is “a mission with a company, not a company with a mission.”
The business model is designed directly for helping, not for indirectly supporting associations, foundations or social responsibility projects. It is company formed to start a movement aiming to improve quality of life.
For TOMS, the company is only one tool to support a movement. The main theme is providing benefits for society whenever people buy products.
Even though TOMS started by producing shoes, over 10 years it has started selling eyeglasses, coffee and bags.
Vision disorders in women
Having noted that vision disorders mostly seen in women and girls generally correlate with unemployment, poverty, illiteracy and lack of social integration globally, TOMS came up with a new product. For every pair of eyeglasses sold in the project, it gives a pair of prescription eyeglasses to one person, provides glaucoma operations, or supplies eye treatments.
In another project, for every coffee packet sold, TOMS provides 140 liters of clean water to a person in need. So for one packet of coffee, one person has a week of clean water.
Bag sales, on the other hand, help provide wider means for safe births. For every bag sold, a healthy birth kit including several medical birth tools is given to one mother. A portion of the income from all bags sold is also used to give midwifery training to women living in regions where medical services are scarce.
Up until today, TOMS has provided 70 million pairs of shoes to those in need, provided 400,000 weeks’ worth of water, made 445,000 eye treatments, and provided healthy births for 70,000 mothers.
In Turkey, it has given almost 200,000 pairs of shoes in 34 provinces. I visited the TOMS center in the eastern province of Van, upon initiation of the brand’s Turkey head, Rıfat Elhadef. Kenan Doğulu, the popular singer and volunteer ambassador for TOMS, was also with us, along with volunteers from TOMS’ local Turkey partners, the Educational Volunteers Foundation of Turkey (TEGV).
At TEGV’s Feyyaz Tokar Education Park in Van, we helped children put on TOMS boots. These children either had no socks on their feet or their shoes were torn apart. Among those who had socks, almost all were wet. Van has an average temperature of minus 3 Celsius in February.
According to statistics, shoes increase the rate of children’s attendance to school by 62 percent. So it is not difficult to understand the importance of the TOMS project.
Continuity is one of its aims. It helps the same people again over time. So I’m not worried about the fact that these boots will have become too small for the feet of these children in Van by next year. TOMS will be there to renew their boots.
So can a person “respect” a company?
Yes, one certainly can.