One For One Social EnterpriseDecember 16th, 2011 | Posted by in Corporate Social Responsibility | Small Business | Social Enterprise
Entrepreneur.com offers a short clip about Warby Parker, an eyewear company with a solid social enterprise offering. Warby Parker gives away a pair of glasses for each one sold. The concept is simple and well-tested, made popular by a number of companies, though most may have first heard about the model through TOMS.
Personally, I think the one-for-one model is a phenomenal idea. Key to its utility is that the product or service offered serves a genuine need in the world. A free pair of prescription glasses (Warby Parker) or a free pair of shoes (TOMS) directly attends to the needs of many people who are struggling financially throughout the world. A one-for-one candy bar company, on the other hand, would be a poor match (in my very biased opinion).
Not everyone thinks the one-for-one model is such a good idea, however, and it is well worth investigating some counter-arguments such as the ones mentioned in, “When the Shoe Doesn’t Fit: An Investor’s Take on One-for-One Models.” At first blush criticizing companies that give away products to help those in need sounds quite harsh, but consider these points from the article:
- The toxic, disempowering effect of giving things away. When individuals receive donations, they begin to see themselves as passive recipients of aid rather than active participants in making decisions about their own communities.
- The distortion of local markets. When products are given away (be they shoes or English classes), local businesses that sell those products wither.
- Poor allocation of donor dollars. Shoes, no surprise, are not often on the priority lists of the poor. When outsiders choose what gets donated, they often overlook other (more pressing) needs.
Perhaps there is a happy medium to be found…
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