On occasion, business competitors will transcend their rivalries to unite for a common purpose and Corporate Social Responsibility is elevated to an industry standard.
Coming up in April, the footwear industry will mark such an effort with Footwear Cares®, an industry‐wide community service program led by the Two Ten Footwear Foundation and the event’s title sponsor, Amazon Fashion. During the month of April, Footwear Cares will unite approximately 100 footwear companies and 5,000 footwear volunteers to provide support to local charities to drive positive change in neighborhoods and communities across the country. Track their progress at #Footwear Cares.
While this is the second annual Footwear Cares event, it is one of many collaborations by members of the Two Ten Foundation, which is marking its 75th anniversary this year. Since its humble beginnings at Boston’s 210 Lincoln Street where working shoe people passed a hat to collect money for those without jobs, Two Ten continues to serve as the safety net for the footwear community. Now a national charitable organization, Two Ten has awarded millions of dollars in emergency financial assistance and college scholarships to American footwear employees and their families. Last year alone, Two Ten Footwear Foundation had the following impact on those working in the American footwear industry:
• Delivered $2.5 million in financial support and scholarships
• Supported 2,000 families in need
• Prevented 800 evictions
• Awarded 200 grants for emergency can loan assistance and repairs
• Provided 500 families with emergency utility payments
Of course charitable giving is an important piece of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) but not the only part. CSR also includes responsible sourcing of ingredients and components in making your products; diversity of your workforce, respect for the environment, support of human rights as well as contributions to the community. These are all areas where individual shoe companies – from manufacturers to retailers – need to demonstrate continuous improvement.
Being based in Maine, we know about the good, the bad and the ugly in the footwear space from centuries of experience. Indeed New Balance is one of the last remaining Made-in-the-USA footwear manufacturers with an operation in Maine, a distinction in jeopardy now as U.S. Trade discussions consider new tariffs in a Trans Pacific Partnership. This potential shows that the work of the Two Ten Footwear Foundation isn’t going anywhere and its voluntary safety net for those who work in the industry is regrettably still needed.