After tweeting and writing the below post, we got a Twitter response from @tatewatkins, who wrote the article, letting us know "I wrote the piece, do understand how TOMS operates, and sought comment from them multiple times." It seems he did his due diligence. The negative sense I got from Oliberté was also clarified in a tweet they sent saying, "Just want to take a moment to say we're not "anti"
I think the title of the article and certain quotes made about TOMS made it seem more negative towards TOMS than intended.
I also removed my statement below about the article being "biased and poorly researched". I think I was overreacting and wasn't fair to the author.
article written in the GOOD Business section sparked some good questions for me and my friends who have spent a lot of years working in relief and development (both non-profit and for-profit).
GOOD's comment section doesn't allow me more than 1000 characters and what I had to say in response to an article that seemed to present a negative view of TOMS from the people who were interviewed wouldn't fit in the space they gave me. So, here's my brief response which I would love to talk about more with anyone who is interested.
I appreciate the effort to make a comparison between these two companies, but I think you are really oversimplifying the issue of poverty and making one company look like it is so much better than the other, when they are really just trying to help people in different ways. Both ways can be good if done well. Either can make mistakes and end up being detrimental to community development. Neither will bring all the help that is necessary to someone living in poverty.
TOMS is providing shoes to children who otherwise would not have the ability to get shoes, because they don't have the money. Oliberte is providing jobs to those who would probably not make as much if they were doing something else. Both can be good for any given community in Africa, or on any other continent for that matter. Both are marketing that their products will help people beyond the consumer.
The quote that "TOMS is a good marketing tool, but not good aid" is misleading. It assumes that giving people jobs is always better. Are we advocating child labor here? What about the hundreds of millions of orphans, the majority of whom are in Africa? Giving an adult a factory job in no way guarantees that those kids are going to get what they need. The jobs are good for the community, but they are only a small part. And generosity is very powerful.
Saundra Schimmelpfennig also doesn't seem to understand the value of a gift given in love. That can often have a far greater impact on someone than a job, but in a different way. You can't begin to say that one has more impact than the other, without showing some good research demonstrating that providing a job to an adult (who may or may not "do good" with their money) is better than providing shoes to children in poverty.
I think both companies are doing some good things and they will both have opportunities to make improvements and make better decisions as they continue to grow.