Thankyou's social impact model expands with new sustainable products following bumper growth
2 August 2022 at 3:48 pm
Thankyou – one of Australia’s most successful social enterprises – aims to create good that is quantifiable.
Thankyou is one of Australia’s best-known social enterprises thanks to the launch and roll out of Thankyou water in 2008 but, from the beginning there were concerns the water bottle product was not a viable long-term option, says chief impact officer Peter Yao.
“When Thankyou was first created, the charitable trust, our social impact model including sustainable product development and our impact model with philanthropy was all in place,” Yao explains.
“The single-use plastic was never completely in-line with our goals. It was our second-biggest seller at the time so it was a significant decision but we decided it did not fit within our model.”
In 2020 Thankyou discontinued the production of its water product line. It was not recyclable or reusable, the long-term goal for all products and product lines.
“As Thankyou’s sustainable packaging goals are based on Australia’s 2025 National Packaging Targets, we wanted to really move forward on them in a meaningful way,” Yao explained.
“We are working towards our 2025 goals on waste. They are that 100 per cent of the packaging doesn’t end up in landfill, and that our packaging is either recyclable, reusable or compostabile.”
The company has experienced two years of significant growth as it pivoted towards hand sanitiser and hand wash products during the depths of the pandemic.
“I would say that there has been slowing growth with those products due to market saturation so we are investigating new lines,” he said.
“We are currently looking at, in the next six months, revolutionising our personal care products, from an environmental and sustainable place.
“We are currently investigating two new lines of products, with packaging that is either recyclable, re-usable or compostable.”
He’s staying mum on the nature of the new products but what is clear is that Thankyou’s business model, drawing on Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) with a design-focus has created huge profit for the social enterprise, all of which go to the Thankyou Charitable Trust.
Financial growth and Thankyou’s impact team
In 2020 The Thankyou Charitable Trust paid $676,500 to impact partners. In 2021, by contrast, the Thankyou Charitable Trust paid $10,003,583 to its impact partners.
Thankyou is currently partnering with six charities and has a detailed vetting process so they can give the funds to the charity in one lump sum.
“We have more than 50 applications a year from different charities wanting to partner with us, as you could imagine,” Yao says.
Yao explains the vetting process is quite extensive and initial funding is for a 12 month period, where the Thankyou Charitable Trust has complete access to the charity it is partnering with.
“We don’t want to see a charity that has done this one good thing. We want to partner with charities that have a plan that is on-going and can prove on-going improvement in the region they are working.”
Yao highlights charity Raising The Village, a Canadian-founded charity with its head office in Uganda, on the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo, as a perfect example of one of Thankyou’s impact partners.
“The families in that region have been dealing with extremism. UN convoys getting attacked for example. Complete displacement,” Yao explained.
“Raising the Village could prove that it had raised income in a specific village from .45 cents a day, to $2.70 per day in just 24 months, which is amazing,” he said.
“One of the greatest things they do is focus on education, and funding locals to help them move from subsistence farming to commercial farming.
“They start with ensuring the village has clean water, then they move to educating the families about how to farm for more yield; they focus on health and finally add wrap-around financial support and education.”
The charity offers US$75 per family and together with training and development shows recipients how to build a farming business that will last.
“When first vetting a charity to partner with we want to see aligned impact values, systems, remarkable people and having a great skill to share with the people they are helping,” Yao said.
“We undertake our due diligence process. It may take a few months, or a year. We look at their financials, their KPIs and ask a series of questions which is a process in itself.
“Even then, once the charity is on-board, there is a 12 month process of staying in touch and getting to know their leadership team. After that time if all goes well we give them another 12 months of funding.
“Once we do find these amazing partners, we give them the freedom to use those funds as needed.”