Each year, the Secretary of State recognizes American businesses that have provided global leadership in the area of corporate social responsibility. Last night, Secretary Clinton presented the 2009 Award for Corporate Excellence to TOMS Shoes, Inc. and Trilogy International Partners. Following the ceremony, Under Secretary of State for Economic, Business and Agricultural Affairs Robert D. Hormats and award recipients Blake Mycoskie and Brad Horwitz spoke about the important role U.S. businesses play abroad as good corporate citizens.
UNDER SECRETARY HORMATS: I think U.S. diplomacy, by honoring these companies today, has demonstrated that the efforts of the State Department and other agents of the U.S. government is really designed to support American companies, in part by helping them to export more, in part by helping companies that have invested around the world to do better as sellers of the goods they produce, but also helping American companies and supporting American companies that want to help the people of the countries in which they do business: humanitarian efforts, environmental efforts, educational efforts, helping the spread of information technology.
So, U.S. diplomacy is about economic support for companies, but it's also about supporting companies that are doing good things around the world. And the one thing that impresses me, talking to companies throughout the United States, is when they do business around the world they're not just committed to making a buck. They're also committed to being good, corporate citizens, to helping countries that are developing, to helping to strengthen the societies and the economies in which they do business.
MODERATOR: Which is what we saw today with these companies.
UNDER SECRETARY HORMATS: These companies are really testimony to how effective American companies are, not just as profit makers, but as good corporate citizens around the world. And I think that one of the big stories about American business is that it really has a sense of responsibility, a responsibility at home and a responsibility in the countries in which it operates.
MR. MYCOSKIE: Thank you, and great. So, TOMS has a really simple concept. For every pair of shoes we sell, we give a new pair of shoes to a child in need: one for one. So there is no formula, there is no percentage. You buy a pair of our, you know, $45 or $50 shoes, and you know that a child who desperately needs a pair, maybe for school or to walk to get fresh water, he's getting a pair of shoes.
So, the most important thing about our model is the one-for-one aspect of it, you know? It's not a situation where you're buying something and a percentage is going to a charity. It's literally one-for-one. And you can buy our shoes at TOMSshoes.com, and they make great holiday gifts, too.
So, well, you know, being recognized by the United States government like this is -- it's really surreal, at first, you know, because I mean, we started this in my apartment three-and-a-half years ago, and I mean, still, you know, we're a really small organization in Southern California.
And so, when I heard that we were being recognized at this level, it really -- it kind of blew me away. And I think the thing that it does for us, though, is it gives a lot of legitimacy to what we're doing. And I think it also will inspire other young entrepreneurs to think about incorporating giving into their model. And hopefully this recognition will, you know, help get more people to know about TOMS, which will, therefore, allow us to sell and give more shoes away, both domestically and globally.
And so, I think that, you know, having this award is going to really springboard the awareness of what we're doing to a whole different group of people that might not be aware of it.
MR. HORWITZ: Well, for Trilogy, it's -- first off, we are extraordinarily honored and humbled to get this award. In fact, when we were notified about it, I thought they had made a mistake, because there is a small company and the large company. And we're -- you know, I guess we're the only large company recipient that no one has ever heard of, compared to the past winners.
But, you know, we're extremely honored by it. And I think what it really does is it -- you know, it's some external validation to what we have always sort of just done, as a regular course of business. I mean, both my partner John, you know, and myself have always sort of felt that, you know, the giving back to the communities, you know, that you operate in was really something that we even used to do in the early development days of the United States, when we were back starting the wireless business with McCaw Cellular. We were involved, even back then, in Habitats for Humanity, and other programs.
And having, I think, a background in the paging business and in the cable TV business, we're part of the franchises, you know. A lot of that emanated from what you would actually do for the communities that you operate in. This is just a chance to take it to a much broader scale, and to actually potentially, you know, change the economic structure of a country, and really help bring it up to speed. Because to attract investments anywhere, you've got to be able to communicate. And if you don't have that basic infrastructure in place, you're not going to get anywhere.
And so, we saw a terrific opportunity to move into the more emerging markets, and provide that basis. And then, as the businesses developed and grew -- and part of being on the right side and on the good side of the governments at all times -- committing a lot of capital to social development programs, you know, served a myriad of purposes for us. But the award is just a validation, a very visible external validation of everything that we have done. And so we are still a little bit in shock throughout this thing.
Well, one of the things that we're the proudest of, both in Haiti and then also in Bolivia, is with the lower penetration, you know, in these markets, what we have done is created a product that, in effect, is arguably the largest job creation program in either of these countries. We actually will wholesale to individuals, you know, air time and products that they then, on an individual basis, either in the villages or in the provinces or otherwise, they will actually sell minutes by the phone call.
And so, you can't afford a phone, or the regular service, but we've got some entrepreneurial Haitians who are in Bolivia -- we call them punto de vivas (ph) -- where we directly support thousands of thousands of families who actually make their income, and a living, from reselling the services that we've got, and helping expand the penetration to a much broader area.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much.
MR. HORWITZ: Sure.
MODERATOR: And congratulations again.
MR. HORWITZ: Well, thank you. It's a pleasure to be here. And, again, we're thrilled and very honored by this.
Read more about the Secretary of State's Award for Corporate Excellence.