I was thrilled to see (thanks Cone!) that TOMS has made a commitment to manufacture 1/3 of their shoes in the countries where they donate the ‘give’ pair of their buy-one-give-one model.
This decision was presumably largely or entirely a response to the widespread criticism of TOMS for failing to develop (or even damaging) emerging economies by giving away imported shoes, thereby distorting the local market. The free TOMS shoes are distributed for free in an African community, making business for local stores like the one below, even harder than it would be otherwise.
Founder Blake Mycoskie explained that he has had a great deal of trouble with their supply chain over the years. Indeed, it’s not easy to manufacture in emerging markets, with limited infrastructure, available materials, and myriad other challenges of a nascent economy. However, it is do-able. And with TOMS lofty goals and monstrous success, it is only right that the company take on these challenges.
Mycoskie is wise to respond to this popular critique of his model, about which he said, "I think that it’s a fair criticism,” in his Huffington Post announcement about the new commitment to in-country production. As Cone explained, it is rare - and so refreshing and valuable - for a company (for-profit or non) to listen to critics and then react accordingly. And most of all, to publicly acknowledge and discuss that failure.
No one is perfect and we don’t expect companies to be. But particularly in the unforgiving world of social enterprise, we all have to show that we’re trying as hard as we can to do the best we can. Always.