Aussie social enterprise Thankyou Group has reached out to multinational conglomerates P&G and Unilever with a potential plan, and it’s calling on its supporters to show the collective power of people to help make it happen.
Thankyou has apparently sent unsolicited Zoom meeting invites to the two behemoths in the consumer good space, scheduling meetings for mid-October.
The team’s proposition is for P&G or Unilever to manufacture and distribute Thankyou’s products.
The Aussie social enterprise directs all of its profits to a charitable trust focused on tackling poverty, so global distribution would allow it to scale that fundraising mission considerably.
In a campaign video, Thankyou co-founder Daniel Flynn said the two businesses “literally run the world”.
“They have hundreds of factories, and they make products for billions of us every day,” he said.
The Thankyou team has been watching them closely throughout their own 12-year journey, he added.
“And to their credit, they’ve solved some really complex ethical and sustainability stuff. Genuinely, it’s impressive.”
Now, he sees no reason why they couldn’t work together. But, crucially, Flynn isn’t proposing a sale or a takeover.
Adidas makes and distributes Kanye West’s shoe brand, he notes in the video. And Nestle makes and distributes Starbucks coffee pods.
“If the system can unlock a model like this for a shoe and a coffee pod, and in that same process make billions of dollars for its shareholders, could the world not turn that same key for a product that breathes in profit and breathes out social impact?”
To add to the drama, Thankyou has sent the same proposal to nine of Unilever and P&G’s biggest competitors.
“We’ve gone all in,” Flynn said.
“If the big two won’t help us on this mission, maybe someone else will.”
And, in one final wild twist, Thankyou plans to announce who has taken the team up on their offer on November 5 by plastering it across a billboard in New York’s Times Square.
“It was like a gold rush”
The unveiling of this campaign follows a somewhat cryptic blog post from Thankyou earlier this month, alluding to a “moonshot” plan that had been on the founders’ minds since the very inception of the enterprise.
And it follows the scrapping of Thankyou’s flagship bottled water product, as it pushed to reduce its plastic footprint.
But, according to Flynn, it also follows a pretty successful COVID-19 period, and that’s partly been the driver behind doing this now.
“While the world’s been in turmoil, some people got really rich,” Flynn said.
“We know that because we’re one of them.”
As a hand wash and hand sanitiser provider, Thankyou made some $10 million in profits during the pandemic, Flynn said.
“It was like a gold rush.”
But, “the whole reason we make money is to get it to the parts of the world that need it most”, he added.
If Thankyou existed not only in Australia and New Zealand, but in every country in the world, it’s fair to say those profits would have been considerably larger, meaning more cash to Thankyou’s partner organisations for tackling poverty.
“That wouldn’t have been $10 million we made in a few months. It would have been literally hundreds of millions of our collective consumer dollars,” he mused.
“Could a global movement take this idea to the world?”
A new normal
This is a somewhat unorthodox plan, and that’s something Flynn acknowledges in the campaign video.
But, there’s power in collective pressure, he says.
The founder calls on people to post about the campaign on social media, tagging Unilever and P&G and using the hashtag #thankyoutotheworld, to get their attention.
In fact, this is a strategy that has worked before.
According to Flynn, when Thankyou was starting out it had some trouble getting its products into the duopoly of Australia’s mainstream supermarkets. It was public petitioning that changed their minds.
“People petitioned. They sang, danced, rapped, uploaded videos — two helicopter pilots even flew their helicopters for half an hour around their head offices for free,” Flynn said in the video.
Eventually, both supermarkets gave in.
“Then, consumers used their choice,” he added.
This may not be the traditional way for an Aussie business to take a step into global markets. But it’s 2020, and nothing is being done the traditional way.
“Business as usual is out the window, and we must forge bold new paths forward,” Flynn said.
“Today, we’re flipping the game on its head,” he added.
“What if we’re on the edge of a new normal, where the products we choose every day exist to right a wrong?”