TOMS Shoes: Effective Altruism?

TOMS Shoes: Effective Altruism?

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  • Teaching Notes
Abstract

In the one-for-one business model, a purchaser of, for example, a pair of shoes simultaneously purchases a pair of shoes for a child in need. This model, popularized by TOMS shoe company in 2006, has been remarkably successful. The driving force behind the success is most likely the emotional appeal of the one-for-one idea. The TOMS model has been criticized, however—not just for being less effective than advertised, but for arguably doing more harm than good. Whether or not this latter charge is true, the TOMS story serves as an illustrative starting point for an exploration of the ways in which commonsense thinking about charity and philanthropy is often wrong. Examining these criticisms will set the stage for an examination of the influential “effective altruism” movement and invite the reader to think more deeply about different ways of doing good in the world.

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