TOMS, the socially-conscious apparel company known for its policy that gives kids in need a pair of shoes, recently announced the TOMS Social Entrepreneurship Fund. Through this fund, a group of eleven social enterprises will receive investments. Among the first group of companies supported by this fund are Change.org, the social change online platform; Andela, an African software development and training startup; and Ava, an application that allows the hearing-impaired to be included in group conversations through an application that transcribes what is being said among the group.
Blake Mycoskie, Chief Shoe Giver and founder of TOMS, launched this fund after selling half of TOMS private equity. Mycoskie has used a One for One strategies as a core business strategy. Each product line is paired with a set of life-improvement tactics. Its eyeware products ensure eyesight-recovering surgeries. Roasted coffee purchases support safe drinking water projects. Bags help fund safer birth deliveries and training.
As a supporter of an ecosystem of socially responsible businesses, TOMS also hosts an online marketplace, where different companies can sell their ethically-produced apparel and accessories. Last year, Mycoskie joined the B Team, positioning him as an inspiring leader seeking to affect change among young company founders and companies. Inspired by Lester Brown’s Plan B book, and the B Corp movement, Team B is a group of business and world leaders implementing new ways of doing business: creating thriving businesses and communities that are net-zero energy, transparent and collaborative.
Leading up to its ten-year anniversary, Mycoskie’s new year resolution for 2016 is to show more gratitude.
This month we went on a giving spree. In one hour and armed with 100 pesos per person (about six US dollars), six people from our team headed to the streets around our Mexico City office. Our goal was to reach out to as many people as we could who needed some kind of support. We broke into three teams. Team 1 (Dania and Fernando) soon went to glorieta de insurgentes where many homeless youth hang out.
They bought lunch kits (sandwiches and bottled water) and handed them out to seven hungry teenagers who started eating right away. Team 2 (Nancy and myself) were buying popsicles from an older man who sells candy on Reforma Av. to supplement his income. We then headed towards Team 1 and also bought six lunch kits. We handed three lunches teenagers who didn’t get a lunch from Dania and Fernando’s team.
Our team then met a blind teenager. We asked her if she needed help. She asked us to describe to her what we saw around us. Then she asked to be escorted to the bus station, which we did. She had eaten already but gladly took a sandwich and a drink from us.
We then spotted an older lady who looked around 90 years old. Her skin was dark like she’d spent most of her daytime out in the sun. By her plain checkered blue dress she looked like she lived most of her youth in a rural part of Mexico. She’d just come out of the public toilets and before Nancy finished her sentence offering a lunch, she quickly grabbed it and gently smiled at us without saying a word and kept going.
We also ran into an older man crossing the street. He was limping from his right leg. His shoes with no socks or shoelaces looked liked they’d been used for decades. We talked to him and said he was heading to his house about five kilometers away. He told us most of his income comes from begging on the streets and the rest comes from his government pension of around 1,000 pesos (less 60 dollars per month). Team 3 (César and Miriam) decided to feed street dogs. They bought dog food with their money and walked around looking for dogs, but only found one.
They gave him a small pouch of wet food that disappeared right away. With 80 pesos left we headed to Pixza, a restaurant that donates every sixth slice of pizza it sells to teenagers who are living on the streets. The manager told us they don’t receive cash donations but they encourage people to treat themselves to a pizza knowing eventually one will be donated to someone who can’t buy one. Their program ensures teenagers do some form of community work and get job training in order to receive the support from the restaurant. All the waiters employed at Pixza are former street youth.
What we learned from this exercise: It was a very touching experience for many of us. We had a chance to speak to people we normally ignore on the streets. Just asking if they need anything, or offering help opens up a conversation we wouldn’t have had otherwise. While the lives of those 16 people probably didn’t change from our quick exercise, it encouraged us to not be fearful and approach others who might need help.
On Tuesday, December 1, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan published a letter addressed to their newborn daughter Max. In this letter, the couple commits to doing their part to ensure the lives of young children and future generations advance their potential as human beings. The Bay Area couple stated 99% of their Facebook shares would go to philanthropic causes, the equivalent of around 45 billion dollars.
Monday November 30th, the previous day, a group of twenty-five investors announced on the week leading to the COP21 discussions in Paris, a joint program to invest in early-stage companies in renewable energy, transportation and agriculture industries. Zuckerberg again, was part of this climate-change fighting group of investors called the Breakthrough Energy Coalition.
Earlier that month, Chan and Zuckerberg joined the Giving Pledge, a global campaign started by Warren Buffett and Bill Gates to encourage the world’s top billionaires to give most of their wealth to philanthropic causes.
“We believe that in the next generation, all of our children should grow up living even better lives and striving for even more than we think is possible today.”
— Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg. Nov. 9, 2015. Giving Pledge Commitment Letter.
What would 45 billion dollars buy you? We did some estimates (see infographic below). 26 million children living in poverty in Mexico could be fed for three years. 75 billion trees could be planted. Or, 6.4 million water wells could be deployed in Africa.
At a time when wealth inequality levels are higher than ever, Oxfam, has called urged world leaders to end extreme wealth by 2025. At the same time, the world has committed to ending extreme poverty by 2030. Promoting that the world’s billionaires invest their assets on the welfare of the world’s majority can only help reduce poverty even faster. We applaud the Zuckerberg family for doing their role in sharing their time and resources for various causes benefiting millions of adults and children.