No Thankyou: Bottled water brand ceases production
04 Sep 2020 --- In an unexpected statement, Thankyou has revealed that it will discontinue its flagship bottled water product. The Australian social enterprise made the decision after realizing that bottled water could never strike the sustainable balance between human and environmental welfare that it seeks. PackagingInsights speaks to Daniel Flynn, Co-founder and Chief Visionary at Thankyou, to understand the motivations behind this landmark decision.
Thankyou was founded on the idea that the hugely lucrative bottled water industry could be harnessed to combat the world water crisis. From the start, Thankyou regarded bottled water as a “silly product that shouldn't exist” – but while it did, it wanted to provide a marketable product that would help bring water to those in need. Profits generated through bottled water sales were invested in life-changing water projects in developing nations, including Kenya, Cambodia, India and Nepal.
“We started in 2008 with an idea – what if we could flip consumerism to make an impact on global poverty? We’d heard that Australians spent $600 million (US$437 million) on bottled water every year, while there were 900 million people [globally] without access to safe water. We thought that bottled water was a ridiculous product, but the reality was that people were buying it. What if we could take an everyday consumable product and use it to empower people to change the world? So, Thankyou Water was born,” Flynn recalls.
“The issue was that every ‘responsible’ solution we came up with wasn’t quite that responsible once you dug into the facts around it, and the last thing we wanted to do was implement a greenwashing solution. Packaged water is different from other consumable products in that, as long as you have a reusable water bottle or cup, you can pretty easily access drinking water. But take hand wash or sanitizer and it’s not as simple as that.”
“Two years ago when we launched in New Zealand, we decided not to take water with us. We launched Thankyou with other products. So after 12 years of water in Australia, we felt it was time to say goodbye to water as we knew it,” Flynn explains.
Thankyou looked far and wide for more environmentally-responsible options, from reducing the amount of plastic and wastewater used in production to challenging the amount of recycled plastic used in the bottle. The social enterprise also explored biodegradable and carton solutions without finding an environmentally-superior replacement for plastic bottles.
“We looked into biodegradable and paper-based options, but we didn’t feel that any solutions were right. There’s a lot of solutions that solve one issue but create more at the same time. Some sound really good to consumers, but when you look at the lifecycle or overall impact, it’s really not better than the current packaging we were using.”
“While we support paper-based or other biodegradable solutions for other products, we just think that when it comes to packaged water, it is a product we as consumers need to fundamentally rethink our relationship with,” Flynn adds.
The reusable route
Thankyou advises consumers to reconsider single-use culture and embrace reusable solutions. For water, that means carrying a reusable drink bottle. “As consumers we’ve got used to the convenience that single-use plastic provides, so we have to fundamentally shift our thinking to shift our behavior,” he reiterates.
Meanwhile, Flynn encourages the government to continue implementing bold policies to discourage single-use and encourage more sustainable options. The Australian government recently committed $190 million (US$134 million) to a new Recycling Modernisation Fund that will generate $600 million (US$428 million) of recycling investment and drive a billion-dollar transformation of Australia’s waste and recycling capacity.
The mission goes on
Thankyou recognizes that the discontinuation of its bottled water will eradicate a large chunk of revenue as it makes millions of dollars from bottled water sales. However, the social enterprise remains active with its personal care, baby care and gift set ranges.
“With our impact partners, we’re passionate about funding programs that provide vulnerable communities with access to basic human rights, including water. But we don’t believe providing bottled water to communities is a sustainable solution – instead, it’s about building sustainable, local infrastructure that will allow communities to access safe water from taps, gravity-fed water systems, wells and filters,” Flynn tells PackagingInsights.
“The question is, will we ever fill that gap with a water product again? The short answer is yes. In time we will. It will look very different, but it will exist to serve both humanity and the planet.”
“We’ll be launching our biggest campaign yet to kickstart what we believe will be the most exciting and important time in the history of our brand. If you’re interested in being part of this launch, head to our website and sign up to our Launch Team,” Flynn concludes.
On the current trajectory, annual global flows of plastic into the ocean could nearly triple by 2040, equating to 29 million metric tons of plastic leakage at the cost of US$100 billion to the global economy. This is according to a groundbreaking report by The Pew Charitable Trusts and SYSTEMIQ, which employed a comprehensive plastic system modeling tool to create a global analysis that evaluates various strategies to reduce ocean plastic flows and quantifies the associated economic, environmental and social implications of each pathway.
By Joshua Poole
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