AS the original ‘buy one, give one’  shoe brand, LA-based TOMS has been a pioneer in the field of  corporate social impact for more than 14 years and an inspiration 
to many ethically minded entrepreneurs who have followed in its wake.

Chief Giving Officer, Amy Smith, is one of the key speakers at this year’s Impact Summit online on May 20. This annual event, which brings together the brightest business minds and disruptors from around the world to exchange ideas and offer advice, is normally held in Glasgow, but this year by necessity is being held online.

Here, Amy Smith discusses the evolving philosophy of TOMS and how the brand is continuing to trailblaze in its efforts to deliver positive change across the globe.

Q) Can you give us some brief background on your career and how you ended up in your present role?
I am the Chief Giving Officer at TOMS.  This is a unique role and one that I’m proud to have but it’s also something I take very seriously. Ultimately it means I am overseeing all aspects of the company’s impact, including managing global giving partners, measuring the giving program impact, leading TOMS Giving Trips, and building our environmental sustainability efforts. 

Prior to TOMS, I was the Chief Strategy Officer and President of Action Networks for Points of Light, which is the world’s largest organization dedicated to volunteer service. I also spent a portion of my career at Apple helping to lead their retail initiative and was part of the original team that opened the first 50 Apple retail stores. 
 
Q) TOMS was created 14 years ago as one of the original ‘one for one’ companies. How has your giving model evolved over the years?
TOMS started with giving shoes to children who were without them. It is the original One for One company and to date, we have given almost 100 million pairs of shoes. We are so proud of the impact we have been able to have with our customers. 

Over these years we have learned a lot and have developed deep partnerships with our Giving Partners, the organisations we work with around the globe. With all that learning and with the world around us changing, we have evolved our giving model to create a more flexible and sustainable way of giving so we can create the most meaningful impact possible. 

Today, we give one third of our net profits to organisations around the world that are working to create positive change. That means that for every $3 we make, we give $1 away – both in the form of shoes as well as impact grants to fuel meaningful work.  
We have developed an impact platform focused on Mental Health, Physical Safety and Equal Access to opportunity. We believe these areas are critical in creating a better tomorrow and they are inextricably linked, mutually reinforcing each other. 

HeraldScotland:

Q) For every $3 you make, you give $1 away – with those funds more recently being placed into a Global Giving Fund supporting those on the frontline tackling Covid-19. Can you briefly encapsulate where this aid is being targeted?
So, we worked closely with some of our long standing Giving Partners to develop a plan. First and most importantly we listened. We wanted to understand which of their needs specific to fighting Covid-19 were most pressing, and where we could quickly create meaningful impact. 

Based on these conversations and leaning into our impact platform, we determined that mental health support, hand washing and medical supplies would be our main areas of focus. 

Q) As you know, this year’s Impact Summit will take the form of an online event. Do you think such virtual events are an opportunity for people to let down their guard down and perhaps network more effectively than they would in the flesh?  
All organisations and individuals have been affected by the pandemic in some way, so we have had no choice but to adapt. 

Regardless, I’m impressed with how quickly changes are being made. I also believe there is some good that will come from these forced changes in the way we work, interact and engage with one another. I appreciate that digital events are allowing us the opportunity to be more global.

TOMS is a global company and our giving partners are all over the world and I’m normally only able to visit once or twice a year. Participating in digital events allows all of us to reach each other from halfway across the world. Sometimes I wonder why we have not been doing much of this much sooner.

Q) What will be your main message on the day?
I definitely want to encourage other brands to make social impact a core element of their businesses. Giving back is obviously something that is top of mind right now with Covid-19, but think of the amazing impact brands could have if corporate social responsibility and giving was always a priority. 

Doing this obviously requires dedication and a commitment to thinking about business differently, but it is possible, and I hope attendees are inspired to think about what giving could mean for their brand. 
 
Q) Do you believe this crisis will lead to a seismic change in how we do business?
We have already seen organisations getting creative with how they reach their employees and customers these days, so I expect the innovation to continue to flow and adapt as necessary. 

The current situation is changing so rapidly so TOMS doesn’t have specific plans in place yet, but we’re having conversations in our leadership team meetings to brainstorm what our future workspace looks like, how we ensure the TOMS culture thrives and how we support employees in a work from home environment over the long term. 

We are going to come out of this global pandemic with a new work normal. We just aren’t sure what that looks like yet but it is an interesting challenge to tackle.

Q) How would you advise entrepreneurs and business leaders on ensuring their company’s survival over the next few weeks/months?
It is more important than ever to engage authentically with your audience. People want to know that the brands they trust and purchase from are really listening to them, doing what they can to help the wider community and ultimately still providing the products those shoppers love.

Your brand loyalists will be the customers that help your business weather the tough times, if you are authentic, honest and open with them I believe you will find continued success. 

Smart promotions should certainly be part of retailers’ strategies right now as well. Many customers are facing tighter finances, and want to ensure their dollar goes as far as possible. Brands can use promotions as a way to create excitement among their audience, to thank loyal shoppers and to bring a sense of joy with a small indulgence or fun item. 

  • To see the full schedule of Impact Summit keynotes and the virtual exhibitor marketplace, go to www.impact-summit.org