Matt Damon on How Beer-Drinking Millennials Can Help Him Fight the Water Crisis

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Matt Damon

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, the star and Water.org co-founder discusses a cooperation with Stella Artois, but isn't sure "how receptive" studios would be to donate some of their proceeds from his movies.

Matt Damon added star power to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Tuesday, discussing in a session how Water.org, which he co-founded, is fighting the water crisis.

The organization's WaterCredits allow loans to be made to communities, entrepreneurs and individuals at lower interest rates than offered by local "loan sharks" to ensure a supply of clean water nearby and save people long trips to water supply points.

Damon on Tuesday also discussed a newly announced cooperation between the organization and beer brand Stella Artois, part of Anheuser-Busch InBev, saying that it provides people different ways of giving, such as by buying glass chalices. Or "you can go into a pub in the U.K. or America and buy a pint of Stella, and for that one pint of Stella, they will guarantee bringing someone in the developing world clean water for a month," the star explained.

Asked by the session's moderator amid laughs if that means people should feel good about drinking themselves to death, Damon said to more laughs: "You don’t have to order 50 of them."

He continued: "If I were a college kid or 25 years old and said well, I can have my favorite beer, and I'm also doing [something good], I'm really interested to see [how that will play out]." Questioned if he really was thinking that when he was 25, Damon said: "Well, no, but here is the thing: I think this generation, the millennials, are.... This generation coming up is tuned into stuff like this in a way Generation X, my generation, was totally tuned out."

What was he thinking about at 25? "I was just thinking about my acting career and writing screenplays," Damon shared.

Could we see some of the box office of his next film go toward the water charity? “That you have to take up with the studio," Damon said. "I don’t know how receptive they’ll be to that."

He added: "But consumers have a lot of power with what they spend their movie tickets on, too, so yeah, who knows, maybe there is a way to bake it into some of that, too.”

Asked about how else people interested in the issue could get involved, Damon told the Davos crowd: "Besides starting to drink Stella beer?" After more laughs, he said people can simply go to water.org and make a donation and follow the group's work.

“It is one of the most complex and fascinating problems facing our world," the star said about the water crisis. "It’s endlessly fascinating.” One statistic he shared was that every 90 seconds a kid dies somewhere in the world due to a lack of access to clean water or sanitation. 

“This problem is absolutely solvable, and it’s solvable in our lifetime," Damon told the audience. "It’s just going to take a comprehensive effort from all of us, governments included.”

Damon also said Water.org is proving its model again and again, which gives the organization ongoing credibility. Imitating Bill Clinton, he said the former president told him and others at the group that it was important to continue their work. "Just keep running those numbers up," Clinton told them, he recalled. 

Joining Damon in the session was Water.org CEO Gary White. “Matt isn’t just a celebrity, but he is literally one of the world’s water experts," he told the World Economic Form. "There is a difference between having a celebrity show up and talk with people in government or investors. When you have a celebrity who is so grounded in this and really is one of the world’s water experts, it has a lot of gravitas."

White said the group previously raised $11 million in funds to test the idea of water equity with involvement of social impact investors. Damon kicked in the first $1 million, and the test was a success. White said Tuesday that Water.org is now looking to raise a $50 million fund. When will it close? The CEO told the Davos event he expects it will wrap “probably in a little over a year.” 

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