Thursday, March 1, 2012
If you have a pair of TOMS and you're like me, you love you your TOMS! And what's not to love? Their motto is "One for One." Every time you buy a pair of shoes from TOMS, they give a pair to a child in need. As if the cuteness of the shoes wasn't enough, the company's philanthropy has only added to their crazy popularity. My poor TOMS are pretty beat up by now. I got them way back when the company was pretty new, and then my dog got a hold of them, but they're still great, right? Well, maybe they're actually not so great. Not too long after I purchased my pair, I noticed a little tag on the inside of the TOMS of my other friends, a tag not present in mine, a tag that read, "Made in China." What could this mean? We all know that many American companies outsource the production of their goods to China or other countries for the cheap labor and slack regulations. I personally try to avoid buying things from these countries because I don't want to support exploitation of any kind, wherever it lies on the scale between unfair labor practices and human trafficking, unless the company is dedicated to and transparent about paying their employees a living wage and investing in the betterment of the community. If that was the case behind the "Made in China" tag inside TOMS shoes, I'm still all about supporting them. If not however, it seems even worse than a company like Nike (who is well known for their exploitation of workers in the name of profit) doing the same thing because TOMS bases their entire image on doing good in the world, and exploiting the poor and vulnerable does not match up with doing good in the world. Well, my dear friend was considering purchasing a pair of TOMS and wanted to find out about their manufacturing practices, so she emailed the company. Below is their reply.
Does that answer satisfy you? It sure didn't satisfy me. What exactly does "representatives in the factories virtually every day" mean? Who are these representatives, and what exactly are they doing? And the term "human rights and safety efforts" sounds pretty weak to me. Come on TOMS, we need more than "effort" in this area, we need actual, concrete, ethical practices! I think this response from TOMS is weak, shallow, and does little to conceal that at the end of the day, they're more about profit than they are about giving back, despite all the bravado indicating otherwise.
I don't want to leave you without a alternative to the TOMS disappointment! Check out the company, soleRebels. They make their shoes in Ethopia, and pay their workers a living wage. They use locally sourced organic materials and utilize recycled and artisan materials as well, among many other positive things! Now that's a company I can get behind and support wholeheartedly!