Wine turned Peter Thum to water. While working on a project in South Africa involving two wineries, Thum saw the difficulties that many people experienced just trying to get clean water every day. “I did a bit of research and began to see the size and magnitude of this problem,” he says.
So he decided to do something about it. Thum’s solution came from some consulting work that he was doing for a beverage company. Thum says he noticed that “there were brands that people paid significantly more for because there was some kind of emotional benefit that the brands provided.” In 2001, he founded Ethos Water, a company which provides water, sanitation, and hygiene education from the profits of every bottle of water sold.
But Thum says that he is also acutely aware of the downsides of bottled water. “Bottled water is not necessary,” he says. “I looked at the industry and said, ‘How do you use this industry? How can we use it for good?’” Ethos Water was sold to Starbucks in 2005, and Thum served as the director of the Starbucks Foundation for the next three years. He has since moved on, but continues to bring clean water to Africa by working with Giving Water, which provides clean water and sanitation education to communities in Kenya.