Poverty Pitch

The intersection of American business and global poverty

[Video] The #GlobalPOVProject: “Can We Shop To End Poverty” With Ananya Roy

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How does our consumerism shape the way we think of poverty around the world?

One of the main questions that pushed me to start this blog in the first place. Here is a sneak peek into one of the most eye-opening classes I ever took at Cal – Professor Roy’s Global Poverty: Challenges and Hopes in the New Millennium.

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[VIDEO] One small step for TOMS, one giant leap for …?

Skeptical 3rd World Kid says "So you mean to tell me, you ended poverty by buying a pair of shoes?"

Skeptical 3rd World Kid talks about Toms
(Meme created through http://memegenerator.net)

In a Media Studies class, my Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) asked the class for ways in which advertising has been used to make consumers feel like they have a social impact. I raised my hand and gave the example of TOMS Shoes and their One-for-One Movement.  She flashed a smile and said that TOMS was precisely what she was going to talk about.

It is no surprise that both my GSI and I immediately thought of TOMS when we started on this topic. Kelsey Timmerman, the author of Where Am I Wearing?, points out that TOMS as the first thing that pops into student’s heads when they think about businesses doing good for the world. His critique of TOMS Shoes’ charitable efforts, emphasizes that the impact of TOMS Shoes is not that they give shoes to the poor, but that they bring in the issue of poverty into the thoughts of their everyday consumers.

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[VIDEO] Hiding in the Back Pocket: UNIQLO’s Social Initiatives

UNIQLO hoodie with a heart

There’s a heart in my UNIQLO hoodie!

There is a lot of buzz around the expansion of the Japanese-based clothing store, UNIQLO, to San Francisco on October 5, but the buzz seems to sidestep what I think really makes UNIQLO unique: its CSR programs. Among this company’s many programs, I was particularly drawn to its clothing recycling initiative and its partnership with Grameen Bank – both of which address the issue of global poverty (see the videos below to learn more!)

I don’t usually follow fashion trends, but this news caught my attention because I had a grand time shopping at the UNIQLO store when I was in New York over spring break. Throughout the year, I’ve been learning more about the brand’s Japanese origins or clothing technology through random news articles I stumble upon. But, I never would have known about its CSR programs if I did not linger on the home page of its company website long enough for the feature on “UNIQLO recycling” to pop out. It was a big surprise for me to find out that this company is not just fusing Japanese and American culture, but it is reaching out to countries such as Bangledsh as well (although not in the same way –  and I can talk about that another time).

Seeing this surprise at the very end of the photo reel had me wondering why they don’t flaunt their strong CSR program the way Toms’ one-for-one campaign does. Has CSR become too cliche’ for brands that aim to stand out? And does this cliche’ status mean that less companies will be interested in CSR, or that this trend has become so ubiquitous that it is now a norm rather than a novelty?

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