Peter Thum Profile

Passionately involved with philanthropic concerns in Africa, Peter Thum is CEO and co-founder of Fonderie47, a social venture concerned with mitigating the effects of the widespread availability of assault rifles on that continent.

Having worked at executive level for McKinsey & Company, Thum realized on a trip to South Africa that the lack of access to clean water was not only life-threatening but that fetching it was holding back economic development, especially for those away from the city. Inspired, he decided to launch a company with the joint aims of raising funds for clean water programs and providing clean water directly in the developing world. Thus he founded Ethos, himself becoming President of Ethos Brands LLC.

In the space of six years, Thum’s company had become a recognized national brand, raising over $6 million to improve water supplies and help more than 420,000 people. Ultimately Starbucks acquired the brand and Thum stayed on for a time as company manager and as a Director of the Starbucks Foundation.

Following his original passion, Thum then founded, which helps over 1000 schoolchildren across Kenya. Working in that country he saw the harm and insecurity caused by the proliferation of assault rifles, and this spurred him to establish Fonderie47.

Holder of an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, Thum serves on the boards of The Global Fund for Human Rights, The Centre for Human Rights Leadership at Claremont McKenna College, The Dean’s Counsel of the NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service and Impossible to Possible Ultra-Athletic Adventures, amongst others.

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    Peter Thum is CEO and co-founder of Fonderie47, a social venture addressing assault rifle proliferation in Africa. He is also founder of the brand Ethos Water and the nonprofit Giving Water.

    In 2001, while in South Africa, Thum observed the effect of that country’s water crisis on everyday people. He saw that those lacking access to clean water were exposed to direct health problems like water-borne illness and other related health risks. Gathering, carrying, and purifying water took an enormous amount of people’s daily time and acted as a serious impediment to economic development, especially in rural areas.

    Water, Thum realized, was at the core of so many problems in the developing world at large. He wrote down his original idea on a napkin: launch a company that would provide water and raise money for clean water programs in the developing world. In 2002, he set to implementing that vision. He left his job at McKinsey & Company and founded Ethos, becoming President of Ethos Brands, LLC.

    Over the next six years, Thum led Ethos to become a national brand in the US and to raise more than $6 million in humanitarian water grants and help over 420,000 people worldwide. Ethos was acquired by Starbucks in 2005 and Thum stayed on through to 2008, managing Ethos and serving as a Director of the Starbucks Foundation.

    In 2008, Thum founded to extend his work toward solving the world water crisis. The organization is now serving over 1,000 schoolchildren at schools in Kenya. While visiting water programs in Kenya, he was struck by the insecurity created by the presence of assault rifles, which spurred him to start his current venture, Fonderie47.

    Thum also serves on the boards for several companies and organizations focused on service, including: The Global Fund for Human Rights; The Center for Human Rights Leadership at Claremont McKenna College; The Dean’s Council of the NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service; and Impossible to Possible Ultra-Athletic Adventures.

    Thum holds an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and a BA in government from Claremont McKenna College

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Peter Thum's Speech Descriptions

Peter Thum tells the story of how he took Ethos Water from the back of a napkin to Starbucks acquisition, and the lessons he learned along the way. In an inspiring and motivating speech he relates how he gave up wealth and position to help the poorest, and reveals how he managed to keep himself motivated along the way.

Thum is passionate about social responsibility being an integral part of business, and he uses his own experience to set out the ways in which he believes social entrepreneurs can also be successful business people. He can help any organization, however large, take on the concept of corporate responsibility and build ethical standards and giving back into the very fabric of their procedures.

Ethos Water, Realizing My Dream To Help Millions & Address the World Water Crisis (Environmental)

Peter's venture has raised millions of dollars, engaged tens of millions of consumers, and helped hundreds of thousands of people around the world get life-saving water. From an idea he wrote on a napkin, Peter built Ethos through to its acquisition by Starbucks in 2005. In his experience you see the importance of both an unwavering belief in your ideas and the perseverance needed to make them come to life in the in the face of great adversity. But the path to change the world can change you too. In this keynote speech, Thum tells of his personal eight year journey from working in elite circles and advising the Fortune 500 to driving a borrowed station wagon and eventually selling his company to Starbucks. Along the way he has traveled the world and helped save and change the lives of some of the planet's poorest people. His inspiring and motivating story shows what one person with a dream can realize.

Are You Seeking Out Deeply Moving Experiences? (Social Responsibility)

Deeply moving experiences lead to meaningful moments and happiness. In his thought-provoking presentation, Peter Thum shares his personal journey of how he was inspired to seek out, and accomplish, his own success and fulfillment, while ultimately helping others. He stresses that everyone can achieve these moments through caring about the world and striving to make a difference.

Successful Social Entrepreneurs

Thum outlines his credo for helping others become successful social entrepreneurs and thereby create successful businesses.

Leading Forward, The Role of Social Responsibility in the Corporate World

As corporations play an ever-expanding role in our lives, it is now more imperative than ever before that they take the steps necessary to improve the lives of their employees, their consumers, their communities and of society at large. A dedicated social entrepreneur who has successfully established businesses that are driven by a social mission of helping those in need, Peter Thum delivers lessons on the importance of corporate social responsibility from which any organization can learn and benefit. From ethical branding and leveraging philanthropy, to emboldening a corporate message, to building a culture where giving back is a standard operating procedure; Thum helps companies of all sizes to understand the steps they need to complete to put social responsibility at the core of their mission and performance.

What People are Saying about Seeing Peter Speak

Rating Entries

Peter Thum, the Matthew McConaughey lookalike who founded Ethos water (Starbucks’ bottled water) took the audience through a motivational challenge to explore angel investing. He also shared his latest project called Fonderie 47, which is currently working to disarm child soldiers in Africa by buying AK47s and melting them down into jewelry and other objects of beauty.


In his inspiring keynote speech at Blackbaud’s annual conference for nonprofits this week in North Charleston, Thum spoke about his experience — from delivering his water to yoga studios and coffee shops with a Volvo station wagon to having it distributed in more than 5,000 stores across the nation. Thum then became an entrepreneur working within a company rather than outside of it. Through that role, he was able to get Starbucks to agree to $10 million in grants by 2010 and donate a portion of the proceeds to clean water programs.


Things went great with Peter. His talk went great and he did an excellent job answering questions and
spending time with some students and faculty members who wanted to speak with him after. Peter was
easy to work with and I definitely appreciated that. No complaints here.

-Rivier College

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