Toms Shoes is known for its “one-for-one” model, where for every pair of shoes purchased the company provides footwear to a person without. In 2011, Toms CEO and founder Blake Mycoskie extended the one-for-one vision into eyewear, providing eyeglasses to those unable to afford them. And at South by Southwest in March, Mycoskie announced Toms most ambitious project to date: applying direct-trade coffee to bring clean water to communities in need, including those in coffee-growing regions where a lack of safe water is crippling agriculture and the livelihoods of farmers.
The project partners Toms with Water for People, a Denver-based nonprofit working to bring “safe, continuous” water to communities around the world, from Bolivia to India to Rwanda. Water for People’s efforts focus on long-term projects that provide service to communities in need, with benefits they hope will carry on for generations. This involves ongoing revenue generation through local business development, co-financing from local governments, and collaboration with international water agencies.
For a company that started in shoes, coffee might seem like a sideways shift, but true to its mission Toms Roasting Co. is sourcing direct-trade beans and roasting them under the guidance of Angel Orozco, a master roaster with a background in economics. For every pound of coffee purchased, Toms will donate one week of clean water in one of the five countries that grow and wet-process its coffee beans. The coffees are available online and at Whole Foods or can be bought and enjoyed in either of Toms retail shops. At the Venice and Austin shops, each outfitted with cafés, each cup of coffee leads to donation of a day of fresh water.
—Regan Crisp is the associate editor of Fresh Cup.