Corporate social responsibility is a movement that has become increasingly popular in recent years due to brands making promises to the general public in order to compete. People choose brands that portray similar values and beliefs to their own and CSR is a good way of showing that your branding behaviours reinforce your identity by sustainable development. But how honest are responsible brands and are they always as transparent as they seem?
Millennials tend to be quite the social activists. Fighting for equality, supporting fair-trade, eating only biological and free range foods etc. A lot of companies lie about how ethical their brand is or how healthy their product is just to get the attention of millennials. Just stick free range on the packaging, increase the price and we will buy it.
I wish to talk about a company called TOMS Shoes which is a great example of a brand with good ethics and impeccable CSR.
Their ‘buy one give one’ business model has been incredibly successful. Basically if you buy a pair of TOMS shoes they will give a pair to a child in need of a pair. Sounds wonderful doesn’t it? Well it’s not as wonderful as you might think and here’s why.
First of all people in developing countries don’t need shoes as badly as you might think. When you imagine somebody in a village of a developing country you most likely imagine them with bare feet, very skinny and wearing rags. That is because of media and how they portray the situation in Africa.
‘’Poverty porn, also known as development porn or even famine porn, is any type of media, be it written, photographed or filmed, which exploits the poor’s condition in order to generate the necessary sympathy for selling newspapers or increasing charitable donations or support for a given cause.’’
– Source: http://aidthoughts.org/?p=69
Media takes the most extreme situation and shows it as the average.
However, TOMS Shoes does have an impact in developing countries but it can be more negative than positive. Why? Because donations like these take creators and shop owners in the local community straight out of business.
‘’Used-clothing imports are found to have a negative impact on apparel production in Africa, explaining roughly 40% of the decline in production and 50% of the decline in employment over the period 1981–2000.’’ Source: -Frazer Garth, Economic Journal Vol118, issue 532
TOMS shoes in most cases is doing more damage than good. So why does he give away so many shoes? Well because it sells, makes people feel good about themselves. The shoes sell for around 40 pounds and the cost to make a pair is around 5 pounds (10 pounds for two pairs as one is donated) TOMS keeps 30 pounds from the purchase. They have now sold more than 10 million pairs. Safe to say that their seemingly ethical business model has made them incredibly wealthy.
There are a lot of brands with good CSR models, just be careful next time you buy into a brands promise for doing good, do some research and don’t be so easily fooled.
If you wish to do good by purchasing clothes here is Tentree with really good CSR:
For every purchase they plant 10 trees around the world in deforested areas.