Can being good be cool? That was the question Switzerland-based brothers Nachson and Arieh Mimran set out to grapple with in 2015. To answer that question, the brothers—scions of French agriculture magnate Jean Claude—launched To.org, an organisation blending investment, philanthropy and creativity to back companies focusing on what the Mimrans have dubbed “vital” issues. 

These include areas whose critical impact is hard to dispute: electric vehicles; sanitation; animal-free food and apparel; reforestation. “The view in traditional finance used to be that anyone trying to pursue any target beyond just financial return, would probably not make the market rate return,” Princeton-educated Arieh, 27, says.

“Today it’s clear that you can make a lot of money while doing a lot of good. And that’s led to a fair amount of greenwashing, impact washing, and purely profit-seeking investors using ESG language as window-dressing. 

That’s why we are very careful with the language that we use: we only back vital ventures, those that are absolutely necessary.” Still, the Mimrans felt that just backing those kinds of ventures—or investing in related charity projects—was not enough. The third pillar of To.org is all about creative communication.

“We realised that communication—making things aspirational, and cool, and desirable—was something that could allow us to work as a Trojan horse,” Nachson, 34, says. “We can bring multidisciplinary individuals and communities together to discuss how we save the world.” That means teaming up with architects, material scientists, technologists, musicians and stylists in order to spotlight certain themes, initiatives, and companies. 

In one case, To.org sponsored the creation of a public lavatory built out of thousands of plastic bottles and over a million plastic bags—the Bottle Brick Building—in a poor part of Uganda. That did three things at once: involve local informal economy workers in the project; create a free-to-use, accessible restroom in an area suffering from poor sanitation; and generate a lot of buzz. 

“It’s a beautiful monument in a way. It doesn’t look like a toilet,” Nachson says. “We created something that could have a digital reach through social media—and also physical reach: it brought affluent Ugandans into a slum where only a few of them had ever been before to go visit this thing they had seen online.” In some instances, the creative input was limited to a rebrand, such as when animal-free proteins manufacturer Clara Foods was rechristened The EVERY Company. 

In other cases, the brothers unleashed guerrilla marketing capabilities, like the time when Nachson—he says at the urging of his environmentally-conscious daughter—sent Mattel a figurine 3D-printed from recycled plastic and labelled “Naughty Barbie”, to spotlight the Barbie-maker’s environmental impact. In response, Mattel CEO Richard Dickson invited Nachson over. “We had an open conversation about what kind of materials exist,” Nachson recalls. “We inspired quite a bit of change at Mattel.” 

Large-scale events or projects—like partnering with EV rally organiser Extreme E, or funding the construction of a music academy near a refugee camp in northern Uganda—are also part of the Mimrans’ playbook. The guiding principle for their every action, Arieh says, is the ancient Hebrew dictum tikkun olam, or ”mend the world” (the Mimrans are Jewish) from whose initials the company’s name was derived. Next up? Arieh has spun out a new venture capital strategy (to.vc) solely dedicated to climate technology. “The three biggest levers that we can pull off under climate technology’s umbrella are carbon technology, food technology, and agricultural technology,” he says. “We’re running out of time so we gotta get to work. That’s what we’re doing.” 

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