While travelling in Africa in 2008 visiting programs funded by Ethos Water, Peter Thum–at that time a Vice President of Starbucks Coffee Company and Director of the Starbucks Foundation–encountered all kinds of boys and men armed with assault rifles. Inspired by the hardship, violence, and suffering he saw during these travels, the humanitarian entrepreneur declared a new goal: to transform the world’s most well-known assault rifle, the AK-47, into something positive. A year later, he founded Fonderie 47 with the aim of turning weapons into jewelry, watches and accessories, thus reducing the number and impact of small arms around the world.
Ethos Water is important to understanding how Thum’s mind works. Appalled by what he had seen in South Africa while on assignment in 2001 for global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company, he developed the idea of cultivating a “fashionable” bottled water brand to generate funds to finance water programs in developing countries. “If people were willing to pay a premium for water named after its source [think Evian],” Thum reasoned, “wouldn’t they want to pay for a brand devoted to funding humanitarian water programs?” It turns out that Thum was right about that on a few different levels: to date, Ethos Water has contributed more than $12 million in water, sanitation and hygiene education in regions including Africa, Indonesia and Latin America.