The New Impact Ecosystem: What’s Your Role?

In an increasingly connected global community, it is collaboration, not competition, that will drive the greatest results — for our businesses and for our world.

A new impact ecosystem is emerging, in which business, consumers, and NGOS are working together to innovate and improve lives. If we are going to use business to solve the world’s greatest challenges, we must all recognize our shifting roles and our shared responsibility in this collective mission.

The New Role of the Consumer

TOMS made me realize that I have power as a consumer…that I can make a difference.” — TOMS customer

With the rise of technology and the democratization of the web, people are more powerful than ever. Suddenly, they have platforms to voice their opinions, stand behind what they believe in, and demand a return to a values-based community. They are voting with their dollars and raising the bar for brands everywhere. By demanding transparency, sustainability, and a higher mission, they are helping to fundamentally shift the global expectations of business.

Businesses that continue to talk at consumers will get left behind. Consumers are no longer passive recipients of products or services. They are global citizens who are changing the world.

When we came up with the idea behind One for One, we gave our giving model a simple and straightforward tagline: “For every pair of shoes you purchase, TOMS will give a pair to a child in need.” Several years later, a TOMS intern suggested that we make a small, but important change to the phrase.

He suggested we change “For every pair…” to “With every pair…” — and we did. Why? Because our customers are an integral part of the TOMS ecosystem. We aren’t giving for them, we are giving with them.

They are sharing our story and exponentially scaling our Give. They are elevating the TOMS experience from transaction to lasting impact. That impact extends far beyond TOMS’ Giving. Our customers become advocates for change in their own lives, creating a ripple effect that would never have been possible if we were Giving for them, instead of with them.

The New Role of NGOs

“Because we distributed shoes to the children; teachers, parents, students and the government all look upon our organization with a higher degree of respect.” — The Askshaya Patra Foundation

Long gone are the days when businesses could write a check at the end of the year and feel content. As this impact ecosystem emerges, business and NGOs must begin to engage with each other beyond financial means. The local expertise of nonprofits working in the field informs and strengthens the mission of companies with giving at their core. And, the brand’s visibility and network of purpose-driven consumers allows NGOs to focus on the real work they are doing, instead of where their next donation will come from.

Our giving partners are the true heros of the TOMS story. We’ve built close relationships with 100+ NGOs and nonprofits around the world who integrate our giving into their programs. Our Giving would be impossible without their deep local expertise and on-the-ground impact, but these organizations are not working for us. They are working with us.

Our Giving Partners have told us that a partnership with a TOMS has helped them raise additional funds, strengthen existing collaborations and expand their organizations. By listening to each other’s goals and aligning around a shared vision of a better tomorrow, we are able to scale the impact on both sides of the equation — making it a win-win for all.

The New Role of Business

“The right use of natural resources, the proper application of technology and the harnessing of the spirit of enterprise are essential elements of an economy, which seeks to be modern, inclusive and sustainable.” — Pope Francis

People are becoming more and more skeptical of government, leery of Wall Street, and scared about the state of our world. There is an opportunity — and a need — for business to step into a leadership role and use its influence, reach, and assets for good.

In the new user economy, citizens are jumping in Ubers, travelling the world with Airbnb, and tweeting their opinions. They have a newfound personal agency within their own lives. But when it comes to global solutions, such as those outlined in the UN Global Goals, citizens are still waiting to be told the game-plan.

The new role of business must shift from providing goods and services for people to working with people, leveraging our collective potential. Business should play the role of convener and connector, providing citizens a platform to transform their newfound personal agency into positive, collaborative impact.

Change is possible if we all play our role in fueling a better tomorrow.

For years, business has been governed by laws of competition. What if I told you that my vision of tomorrow is a world where everyone is trying to be the best at doing good?

As this new impact ecosystem emerges, and our roles begin to shift, it is clear that those who go at it alone will be left behind.

Let’s invest in the next generation, foster new collaboration models, and push each other to truly change the world.