3 Ways Shoe Companies Can Give Back

Barack Obama president volunteer
President Barack Obama participates in a community service project at Leckie Elementary School.
REX Features.

At the core of fashion is an aspiration to help people look and feel their best. From jaw-dropping New York Fashion Week styles to snazzy and eye-catching everyday looks, modern-day fashion has always been about inspiration.

Because of their influential role in culture, fashion industry power players — in footwear, apparel, accessories and elsewhere — are often called upon to use their voices to advance a larger social good.

To meet this charge, many footwear and apparel companies support charitable organizations and engage in a variety of philanthropic activities.

But we can all do more.

Here are three ways shoe companies can up their giving-back efforts.

Employee Charity Days

This kind of philanthropy serves multiple purposes. When a company dedicates a day or two out of the year to giving back, not only does it help the community or organization that is on the receiving end of the philanthropy, it also boosts employee morale.

Appropriate employee-charity-day activities include volunteering at a soup kitchen, school or shelter; cleaning up a park or community center; and doing a run/walk/race for a cause.

Typically, a company will designate a complete workday as an annual charity day, which gives employees a break from their typical chores and also allows them to bond with one another (see: effective team building exercise). Even if Jenny from HR and Peter from accounting don’t always get along, it’s hard not to see eye to eye when a greater cause is involved. Further, this sort of collaboration can yield long-term payoffs for a firm’s culture.

Successful employee-charity programs also offer employees perks for volunteering their time outside of designated charity days.

Do More With Merchandise

Perhaps it goes against everything managers are taught in “How to Boost the Bottom Line 101,” but all products don’t have to be for sale.

Profit-making shoe companies should make it a point to donate product to charities and to people who have fallen on hard times or are in need following natural disasters and other tragic events.

Although companies should donate their wares because it’s the right thing to do, it’s important to note that we live in a time where consumers are more inclined to support socially responsible and civic-minded companies.

Building a reputation of genuine philanthropy is just good for business.

Find a Partner & Make It Official

While the idea of giving back can seem pretty simple, organizing a large (or small) company’s charitable efforts is often quite complex. Determining how much to give, finding legitimate organizations and people to support, and figuring out the most effective way to mobilize employees around a philanthropic cause takes knowledge and time.

To minimize the guesswork, companies should assign two or three staff members (more or less, depending on the size of the organization) to the task of researching local and national charities. Once an appropriate partner is found, companies can make it a point to organize events to support that charity often or regularly donate items to that group.

Some fashion firms may also take want to take things a step further, forming a formal charity committee with the sole function of organizing all of the company’s giving-back activities. Having an official group focused on philanthropy will ensure that a company’s giving back isn’t inconsistent but a longterm priority.