LOS ANGELES – Blake Mycoskie – founder of TOMS, the one-for-one shoe company who has given 10 million pairs of shoes to children in need – recently pledged that by the end of 2015, TOMS will produce one-third of all the shoes it donates in the countries that are the recipients of the giveaway program.
Mycoskie responded to recent criticism that the company is not being used to create jobs in developing countries, and agreed that his business would begin to move in that direction in the near future. Currently, TOMS manufactures its shoes in China, Argentina and Kenya, but Mycoskie has plans to expand into India, Brazil, Haiti, and Ethiopia.
He remains cautious, however, saying that giving shoes to those in need is far less complicated than the logistics of establishing factory relations in a developing country. Challenges exist in finding reliable factories, building infrastructure, and maintaining human rights standards. “To go into these countries – Haiti, Ethiopia, Kenya – there’s a lot of good that can be done by creating some jobs,” said Mycoskie,“But you have to be even more cautious with human rights and even more thoughtful in how you make your agreements with factories.”
China holds a significant manufacturing advantage; its extensive infrastructure of reliable roads, ports, power and other systems allows it to produce and ship the shoes with relative ease. However, opening factories in the countries where the shoes are donated will help to ensure more tangible and long-lasting benefits for local communities. By establishing factories in India, Brazil, Haiti and Ethiopia, TOMS has the potential to increase wages in these regions, provide education for workers’ children, supply take-home meals for working mothers, offer financial education, and house an on-site preschool at the new factories.
In addition, Mycoskie hopes to take equipment and manufacturing knowledge from East Asian countries, such as China and Vietnam, and bring it to developing countries in order to improve the standard and efficiency of production. It is hoped that this next step in the hugely successful TOMS enterprise will help the company in achieve its philanthropic aims through increasingly sustainable means.