When I first heard about TOMS shoes, which gives a pair of shoes away with every purchase, I remember thinking two things: 1) “Wow, that’s a really creative idea and those shoes are hip!” and 2) “Does giving away free shoes really help? Is this an efficient way to meet a need? What about local shoemakers and salesmen – doesn’t this threaten their livelihood?”
NYU econ grad student Vivek Nemana’s echos these thoughts much more eloquently in an AidWatch blog post:
We buy TOMS Shoes or Fair Trade chocolate or poverty-fighting water bottles because we genuinely want to help. But in the frenzy of do-gooder consumption we stop thinking all the way through. We fail to ask how our money will help, and we overlook how our good deeds might actually do harm. We forget that what we want to do for others might not be the same as what they really need.
It’s too convenient to hand our credit cards to businesses that promise to do good; making a real difference also requires information, accountability and careful consideration. We talk extensively on this blog about NGO accountability. Shouldn’t customers ask the same of their favorite social entrepreneurs?
Read the whole thing here. Especially if you’re wearing your TOMS right now.