ENTREPRENEUR PETER THUM HAS AN
unusual habit: He sees a problem and creates a
successful business to solve it — a business that
also manages to change the world.
When Thum visited Africa in 2000, he met
women and children who were living without
clean water access, an experience that led him
to create Ethos Water, a company that donates
part of its profits to help provide access to clean
water. Today Ethos has funded $12.3 million of
grants for water projects to benefit more than
half a million people around the world.
Thum started Ethos in 2001 and sold it to
Starbucks in 2005, staying on until 2008 as a
vice president. On another visit to Africa, this
time on behalf of Ethos, Thum encountered
some young boys with assault rifles. “That
made me want to try to do something about
this gun problem in Africa,” Thum says. “And
so in 2009 we set out to create Fonderie 47.”
Fonderie 47 ( fonderie47.com) breaks down
AK47 rifles to create jewelry, watches and pens.
“The idea was to make them into beautiful
things that would inspire people to care about
the problem,” Thum says. “Every product that
we make, whether it’s a watch or a piece of jew-
elry or a pen, funds the destruction of a specific
number of guns in Africa. And today we have
destroyed over 50,000 assault rifles in African
war zones.” He’s also created a related program,
Liberty United ( libertyunited.com) to combat
the gun problem in the United States.
But Thum’s passion extends even further than
his work for others. The desire to experience the
world looms large. “A thing that I probably can’t
live without is traveling,” he says. Thum has
visited at least 50 countries around the world —
Thum sometimes leaves his devices behind to
replenish his creativity and refresh himself, and
to connect even more closely to his wife and
their three-year-old daughter. But even without
his devices, he still pays attention to his work,
and to the world around him. Once he starts
listing inspiring destinations, it’s hard for him
to stop — the fascinating fish market in Japan,
a photography safari in South Africa, a tour of
Mount Etna with a vulcanologist.
And traveling brings him right back to where
he started, to seeing problems and going after
them. “Meeting people from other cultures also,
at some point, gave me the sense that we all are
connected and that our basic needs and collective survival are interdependent — increasingly,”
Thum says. “So to me, fighting to stop violence
and injustice in Africa or in the U.S. are facets of
that same vision.” A vision that encompasses the
whole inspiring world. — MARCIA LERNER
“THE IDEA WAS TO MAKE ... BEAUTIFUL THINGS THAT WOULD INSPIRE
PEOPLE TO CARE ABOUT THE PROBLEM.”
Seeing and Changing
Peter Thum, entrepreneur with a conscience,
wants to make things better.
Thum visits a Rwandan military base in 2009.
Fonderie 47 creations, from left to right: Inversion Principle timepiece; James de Givenchy for Fonderie 47 steel, diamond and
rose-gold earrings; Philip Crangi for Fonderie 47 custom signet ring; 18-karat gold and blackened-steel fountain pen.