Healing the planet represents a worldwide cultural shift. Is it possible?
Yes. A worldwide shift begins with individuals who want more, apply imagination, break, hack, or ignore rules, and inspire others.
During a trip to India, I visited Barefoot College near Jaipur, on the edges of the Rajasthani desert. Without asking permission or staying inside the typical educational structure, this place is teaching highly marginalized people from rural settings in India and Africa—the illiterate and uneducated, the ‘untouchables’, grandmothers—how to bring light, heat, and water to remote villages. The school uses ideograms—like Ikea assembly instructions—so that anyone can piece together a solar panel and attach it to an electrical grid. They are turning marginalized groups into the most valuable members of their communities. They are highly pragmatic, and they create real, long-term impact. They are overcoming centuries of entrenched structures, ineffectual, insincere politics, and watered-down charitable projects. Boom. This is how change happens!
Meanwhile, you’ve got corporations putting a great deal of energy trying to figure out how to sell more stuff to consumers in developing nations. Getting more populations hooked on cheap goods and fast food. That might have been the creative work I would be doing now. I just thought, “if I’m going to invest my creative energy, its not going to be there.”
Now that people/planet/profit is a more widely accepted ideal, are there brands out there that are ‘selling more soda’, so to speak, but are also doing good work?
Here’s a great story. A pharmaceutical company had developed a treatment to treat waterborne diseases in tropical places, but they couldn’t figure out how to get their product into the hands of the people who needed it. Then someone said, “What about using Coca-Cola’s distribution network? If they can get a can of pop to the tiniest village in Africa, they can get our medicine there too.” It’s a pretty wild idea—let’s just ask Coke for help—but they did, and Coke said yes, and it’s a quadruple bottom-line. It’s a good-news story for Coke. It’s minimal effort. The pharmaceutical company loves it, and the people need it, and governments don’t have to spend a fortune. It’s such a perfect manifestation and aspiration towards the ideas we develop at THNK. Literally, everyone wins!