Is the Buy-One-Give-One model an effective form of altruism?

by jchoi201 min read8th Jun 20206 comments

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Hello all,

I am currently conducting preliminary research on the impact and sustainability of the Buy-One-Give-One model, as a means for effective fundraising options.

For those who are familiar with this model, could you kindly share your thoughts/insight for the following questions? it will be highly appreciated and of good use for doing "good."

  1. For over a decade or more, TOMS, Warby Parker and Pampers have been incorporating the B1G1 (Buy-1-Give-1) model to sell their products and to ‘do good’. To date, TOMS has given away over 88 million pairs of shoes, WP tens of millions of glasses and eye tests, and Pampers over 300 million MNT vaccines. Would the Centre for EA define these companies as “effective” forms of altruism?
  2. How does the EA team measure “effectiveness?” Is compassionate consumption really the best way to alleviate global suffering and to reduce economic inequalities? Can you really change the world, one purchase at a time?
  3. What are your primary reservations of the B1G1 model and the causes that they support (free shoes, eye wear or vaccines)?
  4. Are these companies making a lasting difference to global health and development or is it merely a marketing gimmick?
  5. How could these companies ‘do good’ better or is the model fundamentally flawed? For example, they are not handing out de-worming tablets or insecticide treated bednets, which are proven to be more effective?
  6. A core part of EA is cause-neutrality. However, the three B1G1 companies all focus on a cause linked to their products, rather than a value for money/ effective product (You can’t eat shoes nor specs). What are your thoughts?
  7. TOMS, in response to criticism of its shoe giving model, has partnered with local shoe manufacturers to make a third of their products in the communities that they give to. This seems like a more efficient way of giving and creating local capacity. Does this iteration of TOMS make it a more effective form of altruism?
  8. Should Pampers not be looking at more institutional/systemic issues around newborn and maternal child heath? When over 5 million children under 5 continue to die each year, is it fair to call the Pampers initiative a ‘simplistic’ stop gap measure for children who may not even make it beyond 5 years of age?
  9. These B1G1 companies have mobilized millions of consumers to ‘do good’. I argue that they should keep the momentum going by encouraging these customers to do more on the giving scale. For example, they could inform them about GiveWell, 80,000 hours, GiveDirectly or other proven measures that offer more than just a fleeting, one-off transaction and ‘feelgood’ moment. What are your thoughts?
  10. Some argue that Millennials are the driving force behind the growth of B1G1 companies and the desire to do good via ‘compassionate consumerism’? Agree/disagree?
  11. Does the EA movement believe that there is a growing trend for people – especially over the past decade of so – to try and do more ‘good’? After all Peter Singer has been arguing for this for almost five decades. What has triggered this more recent change/interest?
  12. Could B1G1 brands do more for their chosen causes by motivating their customers to make a more meaningful, long-term contribution/difference to the plight of the world’s poor?
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