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Monday, November 30, 2020

No Small Plan: Amid pandemic, Australian consumer brand Thankyou is looking to tackle global poverty

'I think sometimes companies feel like they can't do enough, but even the smallest step forward followed by another one, will lead to great change over time.'

Written by Prerna Mittra | New Delhi | November 2, 2020 5:30:55 pm
global poverty, Thankyou, No Small Plan, COVID-19 pandemic, Australian consumer brand Thankyou, consumer products, P&G and Unilever, Daniel Flynn, Daniel Flynn interview, indian express newsIn September, Flynn's Australia-based social enterprise extended an invitation to P&G and Unilever to make and distribute Thankyou products globally to help end extreme poverty. (Source: PR handout)

The world seems to be paying a terrible price this year with the pandemic having aggravated some already-existing problems. Amid all the chaos, however, there are some individuals who are working relentlessly to find solutions for some basic problems that impact a large chunk of the world population.

When ‘Thankyou’ was founded in 2008 by a group of university students, its co-founder and chief visionary Daniel Flynn had “envisioned a brand that could be a bridge between two extremes”. “We saw a world that had extreme consumerism and extreme poverty. Today, $63 trillion is spent globally on consumer products and services, and just before the pandemic, 736 million people were living in extreme poverty,” he tells indianexpress.com over an email interaction, adding they wanted to close the gap between the extremes, “by empowering consumers to help end extreme poverty”.

In September, Flynn’s Australia-based social enterprise extended an invitation to P&G and Unilever — two of the world’s largest and most influential consumer goods companies — to make and distribute Thankyou products globally to help end extreme poverty. Through its campaign ‘No Small Plan’, Thankyou is offering some consumer products — personal care and baby product ranges — for the sole purpose of “funding life-changing projects”.

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Fynn seeks the participation of consumers from around the world to encourage the two brands to say ‘I’m in’ and work with them to “flip the system”. On November 5, the brand — which currently sells its products in Australia and New Zealand — will announce which company is in, on one of the largest digital billboards in the world — at New York City’s Times Square.

Excerpts:

Poverty is one of the biggest issues for many countries — how has the pandemic exacerbated it?

The world started with a health crisis that led to an economic crisis. Off the back of this new reality, we are seeing a huge regression in the world’s work to reduce extreme poverty. A recent Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation report shows 37 million more people have been pushed below the extreme poverty line, and a report released by the World Food Programme says that up to 265 million people face severe food crisis, up by 130 million from 2019.

You started with selling your products in Australia and New Zealand; what triggered expansion plans?

We’ve always envisioned Thankyou as a concept with global potential — global consumers buying global products that will make a global positive impact. Australia and New Zealand were where we started, and over the past 12 years, we’ve refined the model. The pandemic fast-tracked our global expansion plans because now more than ever, we think the world needs a model like Thankyou. We made $10 million for our impact partners in the space of a few months selling hand sanitizers and hand wash.

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For context, it took 12 years to raise nearly $7m and then when the pandemic hit, we raised a further $10m from collective consumer spending. With extreme poverty going from bad to worse and charities in a free fall as donations are down, we see the urgency to rapidly expand this social enterprise model because we believe we have a solution that the world needs.

Why did you think of teaming up with P&G and Unilever?

Both companies talk boldly about their commitment to purpose. It’s 2020 and business, as usual, is out the window, so instead of competing with other purpose-centric companies, why not find a way to work together? It’s a bold idea, but both of these companies have global manufacturing capability. They have really sustainable and ethical supply chains, so instead of us attempting to reinvent the wheel and compete with them, we think it would make more sense to invite them to partner with us.  

What kind of products are on sale?

We have over 50 products in the personal care and baby categories. One of our hand wash products is the number one seller with our category in Australian supermarkets.

Your brand seeks to “flip consumerism” — how do you intend to go about it?

We think it’s possible for everyday consumer purchases to help end extreme poverty. That’s what Thankyou is. Sure there are costs involved in making a good product, but once that’s taken care of, we need every cent left to help right a wrong. To help change a big inequality gap in our world that shouldn’t exist.  

View this post on Instagram

We’re a consumer movement who exist to end global poverty. As we head into another week, we can’t help say another BIG thank you to each of you who’ve played your part in this little chapter of a crazy journey we’re on together! Our team are incredibly grateful, and we’re counting down the days ‘till the big announcement. Until then… TUNE IN 12PM AEDT TOMORROW. Join our co-founder @justflynn and Chief Impact Officer @peteyao for an IG LIVE —they’ll be sharing a little update on campaign, and then talking all things IMPACT! Helping to end poverty is an audacious dream. Got questions about our giving model, methodology or impact partners? Leave them in the comments below for tomorrow 👀👇 #thankyoutotheworld

A post shared by Thankyou (@thankyouaus) on

Your aim is to bridge the gap between extreme poverty and the large sum of money that is spent on consumer goods every year — do you think poverty eradication is possible in this lifetime?

We believe so, and we are not alone. Thousands of organisations are working towards this. We want to be clear, Thankyou isn’t the solution to the end of extreme poverty, but the work our impact partners do is. We exist to raise as much money as we can from the collective consumer power, and back our impact partners as they work to solve the complexities of poverty and provide water, health, sanitation, livelihood and other support programs for those on their journey out of extreme poverty.

While every country’s fabric is different, what do you think are the biggest challenges for India?

We think one of the key ways forward is for everyone to acknowledge that there are big challenges and that together they can each contribute to solving them. Thankyou is a way to close the gap between a country’s consumer purchases and our world’s extreme poor. It’s a way that everyone can contribute daily. We believe many small steps lead to big change. So for a country tackling the complex challenges it faces, it’s about everyone, not just a few taking small steps forward.  

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How can a regular person/consumer help in your global campaign?

We are asking for consumers to use their voice so that the biggest companies on the planet hear this idea and look to roll it out across India and many other countries in the world. We are asking people to post on their social media platforms, ‘I’m in, are you’ and tag P&G and Unilever using #thankyoutotheworld. We are asking that people also share the launch video found at thankyou.co.

You recently stopped the sale of bottled water to reduce environmental footprint. How damaging is single-use plastic and how can more companies show similar resolve to protect the environment?

Single-use plastic hurts our world more than it helps it. The challenge is that many consumer products are currently made and distributed in single-use solutions. This is how global supply chains work. We’ve taken a bold step in pulling out of bottled water and introducing some plastic-free personal care products. We still have some products that have single-use packaging. We are on a journey, but many small steps forward will lead to a sustainable future for all of us. I think sometimes companies feel like they can’t do enough, but even the smallest step forward followed by another one, will lead to great change over time.

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