Syrup, cows and the voice of the commons: How planning skills can save the world for fun and profit

Brian Millar
Sense Worldwide

Transactions aimed at creating wealth for brands can have a secondary consequence in putting something good back into society. These consequences can be magnified by harnessing the will of the populace – the commons.

In the 1880s, Abram Lyle was just another Quaker steampunk industrialist with big sideburns and a top hat. He was a thrifty and religious Scot who looked after his workers and his pennies. Lyle's company sold sugar, and there was one thing that drove him mad about the process: waste. After the sugar canes had been refined, his workers had to pour the gloopy leftover crud into the river. Not only did this pollute the Thames — the crud actually didn't taste bad. So Abram invented a barrel that filtered the sticky by-product of his sugar refinery. Instead of pouring it away, he started to sell it to his workforce at cost. Word got out about 'Goldy', the delicious stuff brought home by Lyle's staff. Never one to miss an opportunity, the canny Scot tinned it. The product, and Lyle's packaging design, with its rotting lion corpse and biblical quotation, is still sold worldwide. Lyle's Golden Syrup features in the Guinness Book of Records as Britain's oldest brand.