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Designing social sustainability with one foot at a time
  • Erin Cho : Strategic Design Management, School of Design Strategies, Parsons The New School for Design
  • A Ra Cho : Strategic Design Management, School of Design Strategies, Parsons The New School for Design
  • Min-Seon Park : Illinois Institutes of Technology

Background A relatively new phenomenon related to social sustainability is gaining attention, particularly with the emergence of small design and fashion businesses with distinct missions to act as agents of social change. While social sustainability is often discussed in the context of non-profits or as a part of corporate social responsibility, an increasing effort has been made to explore ways in which activities to promote social responsibility can also generate profits at the same time. This studyexaminesthe distinct characteristics of the business model that takes social responsibility to the core of its profit engine.

Methods In the forefront of this effort stands a small fashion firm called TOMS shoes. Using the One for One model of TOMS Shoes as a model case, we conceptualize profit-seeking social enterprise (PSSE) and identify behavioral and operational characteristics of PSSE.

Results We identify how PSSE led by a small-scale fashion firm, which is often confronted with limited resources for marketing and communication, can gain its brand recognitionand at the same timefoster socially-conscious consumer consumption.

Conclusion The importance of sustainability in the design field is often discussed in the context of environmental sustainability in terms of developing more ecologically-friendly products. This paper broadened the discussion of sustainability concerning social and human interactions via the development of an innovative business model in the creative industry.

SmallFashion Firms, Social Sustainability, One for One Model, For Profit Social Enterprise.
pISSN: 1226-8046
eISSN: 2288-2987
Publisher: Korean Society of Design Science
Received: 11 Dec, 2013
Revised: 01 Apr, 2014
Accepted: 01 Apr, 2014
Printed: May, 2014
Volume: 27 Issue: 2
Page: 29 ~ 43
DOI: https://doi.org/10.15187/adr.2014.
Corresponding Author: Erin Cho (choje@newschool.edu)
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This journal was supported by National Research Foundation of Korea Grant Funded by the Korean Government(MEST)
이 학술지는 2013년도 정부재원(교육과학기술부)으로 한국연구재단의 지원을 받아 출판되었음
Citation : Cho, E., Cho, A., & Park, M. S. (2014). Designing social sustainability with one foot at a time : Archives of Design Research, 27 (2), 29-43.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/), which permits unrestricted educational and non-commercial use, provided the original work is properly cited.

1. One Foot at a Time: TOMS Shoes Designing Social Sustainability

Social sustainability via socially responsible corporate behavior is currently gaining attention, particularly with the emergence of small businesses with distinct missions to act as agents of social change. The aim of social sustainability is to create, maintain, and enhance the quality of life for current and future generations (McKenzie, 2004). Specifically, social sustainability involves protecting the mental and physical health of all stakeholders, ensuring their equitable access to key services, such as education, transport, housing, etc., and facilitating their participation in socially meaningful community activities. In this paper, we examine the social enterprise model that takes social responsibility to the core of its profit engine.

We refer to such a model as profit-seeking social enterprise (PSSE) and visit unique aspects of this model that are different from general for-profit organizations and non-profit social enterprises. We identify four distinct characteristics of PSSE, which include (1) addressing social issues as the core of its profit model; (2) building community activities and involvement into a business model; (3) network-based marketing and advertising activities; (4) being a role model. In so doing, we analyze TOMS Shoes as an exemplar case to illustrate components of PSSE.

2. Sustainability

The most widely adopted definition of sustainable development is the one set forth by UNCED (United Nations Conference on Environment and Development), which indicates conscious development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own (Partridge, 2005). Sustainable development concerns three distinct, yet related, domains: eco-system, economic system, and social system.A development that ensures the healthy continuation of ecological systems for the future is referred to as environment sustainability; economic sustainability is related to growth, development, and productivity of an economic system, in that an economic system would support present consumption without sacrificing future needs;social sustainability is about preserving social capitalfor the future (Basiago, 1998).

Corporations that are conscious of sustainable development have recognized these multiple dimensions of sustainability and have attempted to incorporate multiple values of sustainability in their business strategies (DyllickandHockerts, 2002; Ketola, 2008). Still yet, much of the strategic efforts have been focused on achieving environmental sustainability and economic sustainability, specifically in the context of implementing green productionand marketing, and understanding the revenue generating value of sustainable development for the firm’s bottom line (Choi and Ng, 2011). Comparatively,little attention has been paid to the concept of social sustainability and the ways businesses can achieve it. This may be because the concept of social sustainability is relatively new and it has been recently acknowledged (Partridge, 2005). It may also be because the discussion on social sustainability is not easy, given that the context of “social” implies many issues, which are difficult to define(McKenzie, 2004).

McKenzie is one of the few who offered definitional clarification on social sustainability. According to him, social sustainability concerns sustainable development promoting “a life-enhancing condition within communities, and a process within communities that can achieve that condition” which includes the access to key services ¾ equity between generations, a system of cultural relations, and a sense of community responsibility (p. 12). Western Australia Council of Social Services (WACOSS) also proposed the concept of social sustainability: it is to promote “the formal and informal processes, systems, structures and relationships actively support[ing] the capacity of current and future generations to create healthy and livable communities. Socially sustainable communities are equitable, diverse, connected and democratic and provide good quality of life” (p. 4). Both McKenzie and WACOSS’s definitions involve the concepts of equity, cultures, relations, community, and quality of life. Based on these definitions, we refer to social sustainability as maintaining and enhancing the well-being and quality of life for current and future generations in terms of the mental and physical health of all stakeholders, and ensuring equitable access to key services, and facilitating their participation in socially meaningful community activities.

Traditionally, a corporate strategy addressing social sustainability has been peripheral, typically carried out in the context of a donation model or as a part of marketing strategies. For example, a company develops a specific brand line where the portion of profits goes to support a charitable organization for underprivileged populations or social causes, encourages employees to donate their time for community involvement, and/orsponsors events to increase awareness of social issues which need to be addressedfor the future generation. In terms of managerial implications,the concept of social sustainability has been most significantly applied to a firm’shuman resource management. One way that businesses can achieve social sustainability is to support employees by providing better working conditions, education and training, and equity. These efforts can contribute to social sustainability as they enhance health and safety through decreased accident or injury while increasing well-being (von Geibler et al., 2006; Tanzil and Beloff, 2006). As a result, a company can attract and retain better employees (Jenkins, 2004; Battacharya et al., 2008) and improve organizational culture (Loucks, 2010). Some research also examined how practicing social responsibility, particularly in the context of exercising a fair labor relationship and supply chain management, would affecta company’s reputation and profitability (Hoivikand Shankar, 2011).

Businesses can also attain sustainable development by encouraging customers to practice sustainable acts and change their behavior. Porritt (1998) and Robinson(2004) emphasize that sustainability is a process as much as it is a concept, and people should be involved in order to achieve sustainable development. Through participatory practices, a business can encourage people to practice sustainable consumption. Carrigan (2011), for example, discusses how responsible small businesses can influence customers and change their behavior to support environmental change in society. There are also quite a few B-to-C business models whose main competitive advantage is its environmentally conscious way of doing business. It is noted, however, that discussions around B-to-C profit models whose missionsare to achieve social sustainability are relatively scant. Rather, business activities promoting people’s support of social issues are mostly related to the domain of social entrepreneurship, the concept we discuss below.

3. Social Entrepreneurship

Based on the discussions of Dees (1998) and Sullivan Mort et al. (2003), Marshall (2011) defines social entrepreneurship as entrepreneur activities that recognize and pursue opportunities to create social value through continuous engagement in innovation and actions taken without accepting perceived extant resource limitations.In defining entrepreneurial activities that characterize social entrepreneurship, the most critical factor is whether its mission and goals are to explicitly address social issues and create social value (Dees, 1998b; Sullivan Mort, Weerawardena, and Carnegie, 2003). For example, Dees (1998) argued that the primary goal of social entrepreneur activities is to create superior social value for the stakeholders, as opposed to maximizing profit. Some researchers went so far as to advocate social entrepreneurship as a partial solution to the need for radical welfare reform to meet social demands that are led by enterprising people (Thompson, 2002). Particularly with diminishing public funding, Johnson (2000) put forth that “social entrepreneurship is emerging as an innovative approach for dealing with complex social need” (p.1).

In terms of organizational forms, social entrepreneurship can be manifested either as a for-profit enterprise, a non-profit enterprise, and the hybrid of the two. It is noted, however, that the notion of social enterprise has often been associated with the latter two and that there are still some debates as to what specific forms of for-profit enterprise can be considered as social enterprise. For example, Cook, Dodds, and Mitchell (2001) argue that enterprises that carry out for-profit activity to support other nonprofit activities can be viewed as social entrepreneurs. Others have argued that for-profits that may take some innovative action towards building social capital can be considered as being socially entrepreneurial (Thompson, Alvy, and Lees, 2000). Thompson (2002) tried to offer some definitional clarification to what constitutes social enterprise. Specifically, he proposed three different models of social enterprise. The first model is when profit-seeking businesses have some commitment to help society and conserve the environment with their business strategies and through financial donations. That is, while the core mission and goal of these organizations are to carry out for-profit activities, they may take some actions toward building social capital. The Body Shop can be a good example of this form. With their belief that their business has the power to make a difference to the world, they are involved in activities that raise awareness and funding for women suffering from domestic violence. They also engage in social campaigns to increase the awareness and prevention of HIV and AIDS among young people by working with MTV Networks International. The second model of social entrepreneurship is social enterprises whose main goal is to address a social cause with little or no consideration of generating profit. Computer Aid International is a good example of a social enterprise. The organization refurbishes and tests used computers donated by UK companies and distributes them to education, health, agricultural, and non-profit organizations in under-developed countries. By charging minimal costs to the recipient for a small handling fee, it empowers organizations in less developed parts of the world to increase the work efficiency through affordable computing. Computer Aid has grown from a small charity to the largest supplier of recycled computers globally. The third model is the voluntary form where an organization relies on voluntary donations of money and time from people who believe in the goals and missions of the organization.Streetshine in London provides opportunities for people who are homeless or unemployed to earn a regular incomeand re-establish their lives by running a shoeshine service for office workers. They provide training in shoe repair, leather care, and customer service for free. After the training, the company recruits from these people or helps themfind jobs so they can earn wages.

This paper expands the understanding of a self-sustaining, profit-seeking social enterprise, which we will refer to as PSSE, whose business orientation is to generate profit with the goal of addressing social issues. Different forms of organizations may display different behavioral and operational characteristics in their responses to the environment. While few studies have discussed the definitional characteristics of for-profit social enterprise, little has been discussed about the way PSSE engages in business activities that are different from a typical for-profit enterprise. In understanding these characteristics, we pay close attention to the manners in which PSSE engages with consumers to build brand recognition and generate profits.

As illustrated in Figure 1, we focus onfouraspects of the behavioral and operational characteristics that are unique to the PSSE model. First, PSSE addresses social issues as the core of its profit model. Scholars have recognized the for-profit enterprise model whose profit-seeking commercial exchanges are directly related to supporting social causes (Murphy and Coombes, 2009; PeredoandMcClean, 2006; Weerawardenand Mort, 2006). While academic attention to this enterprise model has been comparatively scarce, Peredo and McLean (2006) argued that the social mission and commercial exchange can coexist as long as an organization maintains the social mission as a primary objective of this operation. Marshall (2011) points to that “the paucity of research to consider for-profit SE may be due to the perceived incongruence between for- profit status and social mission primacy” (p. 98).

Second, PSSE builds community activities and involvement into a business model. Social enterprises need to include diverse stakeholders with strong social aims and social values. Also, there is commitment to support the community for positive social impact, and social enterprises need to be directly involved in either production or providing services (Shaw et al., 2007).When customers feel good about themselves after meaningful consumption that contributed to help someone, they like to share their experience with those people who make a community that shares the same norms and values. This characteristic can be achieved through the existence of social capital in businesses. Unlike physical capital, human capital is able to connect people by having social networks, trustworthiness, and the same norms (Putnam, 2000). In addition, existence of community as a social network helps businesses deliver their objectives more efficiently (Ardichvili, 2003). In order to continue growth of the community, the company will need to provide higher levels of organizational visibility (Lepoutre, 2006). By doing that, a company can build trust and mutual reciprocity allowing for more opportunities to capitalize on the benefits of being socially responsible.

Third, the main channel of brand promotion for PSSE is network-based marketing and advertising activities. Dahle’n et al. (2009) discusses nontraditional media advertising enhancing consumer-perceived value. They argued that non-traditional media can create positive emotions, but this is dependent on its form. That is, while non-traditional media can be a good strategy for advertising, the form needs to be well chosen and delivered to customers. Building and spreading storytelling can be an effective form of non-traditional advertising. Guber (2011) argued that storytelling takes an essential role in persuading consumers and enabling consumers to connect with a company, and eventually win in business. Also, he suggested that good storytelling “is a dialogue, not a monologue” (p. 203). His view of storytelling about dialogue could make a connection between non-conventional advertising and social networks.

Forth, the entrepreneur of PSSE is innovative, open-minded, and a role model who inspires others to pursue the values of PSSE. Social entrepreneurs are people who solve social problems by way of generating value from business opportunities (Borstein, 2004). Ashoka, the organization promoting social entrepreneurship, offered a more detailed definition that social entrepreneurs are individuals “with innovative solutions to society’s most pressing social problems. They are ambitious and persistent, tackling major social issues and offering new ideas for wide-scale change” (Ashoka Organization, 2007). In addition, they operate in the community and are more concerned with caring and helping than with making money. Nga and Shamuganathan (2010) also identified a set of personality characteristics of social entrepreneurs related to the performance of social entrepreneurship, which include agreeableness and openness. In addition, several studies have emphasized the role of innovation, proactiveness, and risk taking as being central to social entrepreneurship (Borins, 2000; Sullivan Mort et al., 2003). Specifically, Sullivan Mort et al. (2003) lay out four characteristics of social entrepreneurs, which include “the virtuousness of their mission to create better social value; unity of purpose and action in the face of complexity; an ability to recognize opportunities to create better social value for their clients; and their propensity for risk-taking, proactiveness and innovativeness in decisionmaking’’ (p. 82). In the next section, we use TOMS as an exemplar case to illustrate specific ways that PSSE can accomplish these goals.

Figure 1 Characteristics of Profit-Seeking Social Enterprise (PSSE) Model

Founded by Blake Mycoskie in 2006, TOMS Shoes is a company known for its unique One for One model¾ providing a new pair of shoes to a child in need in an underdeveloped country for every pair purchased. While TOMS Shoes is a for-profit organization, social responsibility defines its entire brand identity, product offerings, and operations. Specifically, the company demonstrates the core of social sustainability by upholding the concept of “doing well by doing good.” TOMS Shoes also has unique and innovative ways of gaining brand recognition and achieving financial success. While still small in size, TOMS Shoes has been successful financially and has set a small trend for social entrepreneurship. By providing in-depth analysis of this business model, we argue that successful execution of PSSE can create a powerful brand identity that propagates its aspiration toward social sustainability. Such a brand identity can leave behind a legacy that not only influences the behavior of the customers but also perpetuates its capacity to bring about change in a society.

4. The Characteristics of PSSEDepicted in TOMS
4.1. Contributing to social sustainability as the core of its profit model

As discussed above, the key distinction of PSSE is that it is a profit-model, while addressing a social issue is a cornerstone of its business mission. Specifically, the act of giving is the foundation of its business model and also most critical to its financial success of TOMS.TOMS does not release specific revenue figures but reported that it has donated over 10,000 pairs of shoes since 2006. Mycoskie is also very open about the fact that while giving is the purpose of his business, making a profit is also very important (Marre, 2010).

The idea of TOMS Shoes came about when Blake Mycoskie traveled with a group of friends to Buenos Aires, Argentina in 2006. Although the trip was just for leisure, the group was struck by just how underdeveloped the area was, with most small children walking around barefoot. The group ended up participating in a shoe drive for a project called Shoes for Tomorrow, and Mycoskie was so moved by the idea of giving shoes to children in need that he decided to take the idea back with him to Santa Monica, California. He founded TOMS Shoes implementing that for every single pair of TOMS Shoes sold in the United States, a pair was to be donated to a needy child in Argentina (this model is now expanded to include multiple counties of operation and multiple countries to which a donation is made). TOMS describes the principle of this non-cash donation model as One for One.

Through One for One, disadvantaged children can get better access to education and transport, and customers feel good about helping others. In under-developed countries, children often grow up barefoot and walking is their primary means of transportation. The children would walk for miles in search of water or to go to school only to be turned away because they lacked the proper uniform or shoes. The soil-transmitted parasites that penetrate the skin through the open sores on their feet are the main cause of disease. One such disease, podoconiosis, is caused by walking or working barefoot in silica-heavy volcanic soil, a common practice in rural farming regions of developing countries, resulting in extreme swelling and repeated ulcers in the leg. Podoconiosis is especially problematic in Ethiopia, with an estimated 11 million affected. These observations inspired him and eventually he established the OneforOne campaign.As of September 2010,1,000,000 pairs of shoes have been donated to children in need around the world. By doing so, the company adds value to the society by curtailing the negative effects that would arise from delayed education and limited physical activities of children caused by cuts and bruises on their feet. In terms of social sustainability, TOMS provides better quality of life to the children by providing products that make them accessible to basic services, education, and transport.

The original design of the company’s shoe was based on the Argentine alpargata style, in part by an effort to preserve and celebrate the cultural heritage of people to whom he will distribute the products. Alpargata,whose design was originally brought to Argentina by French immigrants, is a simple shoe that consists of canvas as the top and rubber or rope as the sole and has been worn by rural Argentine farm workers for over 100 years. Moreover, manufacturing in local areas, such as China, Ethiopia, and Argentina, gives people opportunities to become capable of living a better life independently, which is another aspect of social sustainability. TOMS gives people the ability to sustain the better quality of life for the future generation.

4.2. Building community activities and involvement into its business model

Community involvement is one significant component of the TOMS model related to social sustainability. Even though there was not any traditional advertising, the idea of TOMS OneforOne has spread widely around the world. This has been possible because of the existence of strong customer involvement. As people purchase shoes from TOMS Shoes, they feel good about it because they know they are helping someone through consumption. This is more direct and immediate than donating money for disadvantaged people because they know exactly how their money is used to help children. Also, Blake Mycoskie, the founder, plays an important role in building higher visibility of the organization, which increases stronger communityinvolvement. He is accessible and transparent, openly sharing everything about the company and his goals. One example is his Start Something that Matters blog which he uses as a medium to communicate with people. He always shares his story or something related to TOMS and social responsibility. He also had an online event where he answered one question a week chosen from ones submitted by people. Because people feel that they are directly connected to him and he really cares about others, customers can build more trust in TOMS and are more willing to take community involvement.

TOMS organizes activities to solidify the community aspect of its business. For example, there is a one day event each year dubbed “One Day Without Shoes” where the participants are encouraged to remove their shoes and walk barefooted like those kids in less developed worlds who have to walk long distances without shoes in search of water, medical help, or to go to school. The aim of the day is to sensitize the public on the need for kids to have shoes. Last year more than 1,600 events took place in the world with more than 250,000 individuals participating. No one is forced to participate, but many do voluntarily. It is because they share the same experience of ethical and meaningful consumptions and the same goal that they want to help more children around world who have no shoes. By having the same value and goal, the customers created a strong community with involvement so powerful that they influence others. TOMS creates another aspect of social sustainability through their community involvement because the strong and wide involvement increases participatory processes.

With the help of the company’s non-profit subsidiary Friends, TOMS also organizes Shoe Drop Tours hosted around the world. The public has an opportunity to become involved with the Shoe Drop Tours and volunteers are able to hand-deliver shoes to children. It is involved in disseminating information concerning the shoe drops, recruiting volunteers, and identifying the location of the greatest need for shoes. While it started with Argentina and Ethiopia, TOMS now has drop tours in South Africa. Not only has Drop Tours been an important means to involve the community supporting the social issues TOMS addresses, but it has also been an important tool for TOMS in demonstrating their corporate social responsibility, as they express the company’s obligations, values that the company provides to the society, and their model in achieving economic goals.

4.3. Network-based marketing and advertising

TOMS does not rely on a traditional means of marketing and advertising, such as TV commercials and magazine advertisements. The probable reason that TOMS Shoes does not have formal advertising is likely twofold.First, formal advertising is expensive. Delivering shoes to children is expensive as well, so it is important for the company to reduce costs in certain areas to get a profit margin where possible. Second, in today’s marketing landscape, the need for traditional means of advertising is simply not as strong for PSSE.

TOMS Shoes recognized that they could generate awareness growth through word of mouth as people voluntarily spread information about the TOMS brand to others. When Blake Mycoskie started TOMS, he used the power of storytelling to make a short video about TOMS Shoes explaining what the company is doing and what it wants to achieve. He showed the video to people and talked about the company, and those people passed the video and his story of TOMS on to others, which generated customer evangelization and created advocates for the brand (Mycoskie, 2011).

The Internet presence has been an essential part of their business strategy. In particular, the roles of networking agents who drum up interest around the company have been notable. For instance, a blogger, David, shared the core message from the TOMS website on his blog and exhibited how TOMS Shoes has donated over 10,000 pairs of shoes in Argentina and 50,000 in South Africa. As of today, the blog has developed into a vibrant site called TOMS Shoe Fans, which continues to highlight real life instances of how TOMS Shoes are worn around the globe. TOMS has also done astonishing work in connecting people virally through their website, blog, Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Blake’s blog, as well as the Friends of TOMS website. All the social networking websites are constantly active, which was the key to TOMS’sability to successfully expand its company.

Even though the company has become larger and successful, it has not stepped into traditional advertising. Instead, TOMS focuses on generating awareness for the brand via word-of-mouth storytelling and social media. The social media efforts include several series of TOMS Shoes videos on YouTube where the shoes are the main characters. There are also numerous videos made by fans and customers who have created their own posts on YouTube to show their affection for the TOMS brand. In this day and age, many customers want to connect with the brand. Consumers often demand a more personal brand experience. The marketing strategies of TOMS Shoes have been successful because they are economical for the company and they are a genuine means of connecting with potential customers in the way that the customers want to interact with brands. Ultimately, TOMS has found ways online through social media and offline through pure word of mouth to foster significant customer evangelization, which has been critical to their success.

4.4. Being a role model

With high visibility and financial success, the founder of TOMS became a successful innovator of the OneforOne business model and motivated others to adopt its model. For example, Warby Parker, Inc. is a PSSE inspired by TOMS’sOne for One model and since 2010 has donated over 30,000 pairs of eyeglasses to help people who cannot learn or work effectively because of bad vision. According to the company, there are one billion people who cannot afford glasses, which means that 15% of the world’s population has significant problems with their vision. Warby Parker is a PSSE attempting to help alleviate some of this issue. Interestingly, Warby Parker has inspired TOMS to donate a pair of glasses for every pair sold starting in June 2011. TOMS inspired Warby Parker with its OneforOne model and Warby Parker helped TOMS to recognize other needspeople have. One of the founders of Warby Parker, Neil Blumenthal, said, “We’re thrilled that TOMS joinedto deliver eyecare to people in need,” and he emphasized that TOMS and Warby Parker are not competitors, but work together to help people and inspire other companies (Davis, 2011). Mycoskie of TOMS also mentioned that they need “collective efforts” in order to solve the problem of eyecare. This shows that companies with a PSSE can inspire each other and generate better solutions for the society.

Another example of PSSE with the TOMS model is Will Hauser, Inc. Will Hauser donates one medically formulated nutrition pack to a hungry child for every nutrition bar it sells. One of the founders of the company said in an interview that TOMS Shoes was a big inspiration for them. They want to integrate their medical knowledge withthe OneforOne business model to fight childhood hunger. Ark Collective also gives a brand new backpack to a student in need in the United States for every backpack it sells. The company believes that a backpack is not just a means of storage, but for each student’s self-expression. The company indicated that there are 14 million students in the United States who live below poverty level and do not have anything to store supplies, books, or their lunch, which makes them not want to go to school. Figs, Inc. also follows the TOMS model with a slight variation. Figs donates one school uniform to a child in Africa for every tie a consumer purchases. The founder, Heather Hasson, said the cost of uniforms is less than the cost of manufacturing its neckwear. This goes to show that social entrepreneurship does not have to be done at the expense of the company. All these startups operate on a rather smaller scale, but they are examples of the positive ripple effect that an innovative social enterprise, such as TOMS Shoes, can create.


While a relatively new phenomenon compared to environmental and economic sustainability, social sustainability is gaining attention, particularly with the emergence of small businesses with distinct missions to act as agents of social change. We examine a for-profit business that takes social sustainability to the core of its profit model. We refer to such a model as profit- seeking social enterprise (PSSE) and identify operational characteristics of PSSE. Using TOMS Shoes as a case study, we discuss how PSSE can achieve financial success and at the same timefoster socially conscious consumer consumption.

It is important to note, however, some of the criticisms and ethical issues facing the TOMS business model, or more generally the non-cash donation of the OneforOne model. The most significant concern with this model is the potential to create dependency. It has been argued that some types of aid do not allow countries to develop themselves in order to address their own issues,which creates dependency on aid in the future. Before TOMS, Christian NGO World Vision had a charity program distributing shoes to children in developing countries for Christmas gifts. When an informal interview was conducted to evaluate the value of this donation, an unexpected finding was reported that it created a certain tendency on the part of the recipient. That is, people who had received free shoes did not want to buy their children shoes because one day World Vision would come back and give free shoes to the children again. They even blamed their children’s lack of new shoes on the organization because World Vision had not distributed new shoes for free yet again. To address this issue, a better model may be that, as opposed to simply giving away goods that people need, organizations may sell goods at prices that people in developing countries can afford and allocate part of the budget to educating local people on the value of having the goods offered (Mason, 2010). Some also argue that the OneforOne campaign created dependency as this model may curtail the opportunity for local businesses to develop. For example, while TOMS distributes their shoes through local partners, their shoes are manufactured, assembled, and shipped from overseas. Such operations can destroy or delay a chance for local industries to develop and produce needed goods of their own (The BYU Political Review, 2011). The Onefor One campaign can be more effective if products are manufactured, assembled, and distributed locally as it can create local jobs as well as empowerment of local merchants (Good Intentions, 2010).

Even with these concerns, TOMS Shoes was recognized as one of the most innovative companies in 2010 by Fast Company. With its OneforOne model and unique operational strategies, TOMS Shoes successfully gains brand recognition, social awareness, and role model status for those pursuing PSSE. By analyzing its business model, we highlight that organizations with socially responsible brand identities can achieve commercial successes as well as social sustainability. Furthermore, we shed light on ways in which social entrepreneurship can plant and grow the seeds of behavioral change toward social sustainability for generations to come and how consumers can join forces to build a more sustainable mode of life.

Creating shared value

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