Gin a force for good
It can be easy, at times, to accept the fact that we’re mere atoms floating in a world of chaos; to resign ourselves to the fact that any attempts to make the air cleaner or the sea cooler will be undone by someone or something else. We recycle, we use energy efficient bulbs, we do our bit. But…
But there are a special few charitable souls who seek to stem the flood; to plug their finger into the dam and help one tiny corner of the world become that little bit nicer. People who go above and beyond to make sure things will be better. Happily for us, a good handful of these people make gin, and while choosing their products at the bar won’t quite rank you amongst the planet’s most altruistic residents, you’d be (pleasantly) surprised at the funds all those post-work G&Ts have been able to raise over the years.
In spring this year, water foundation One Difference made its way into the booze world with The Spirit of One. Its first port of call was One Gin, a deliciously sappy, sage-heavy tipple made at the Blackdown Distillery in Sussex. While it’s still very early days for the gin brand, it has already pulled in around £7000 for its parent company (which itself has raised £15m towards its quest to make sure that everyone in the world has access to safe drinking water).
The Spirit of One’s Managing Director Ian Spooner says that while it has taken the alcohol industry a little while to catch up, sustainability and philanthropy are hot topics at the moment, with many brands in the adult drink space looking to build a donation to a charitable cause into their offering. He adds that this is down, in part, to a more informed drinker: “Consumers are becoming increasingly questioning of supply chains and brand back-stories and this is another manifestation of that. As a brand that has raised funds for water projects since 2005, we welcome this evolution in premium spirits. Any opportunity to use business as a force for good is to be applauded.”
Tessa and Robin Gerlach of Elephant Gin share the same sentiments, although argue that people need to be very sure of where their money goes. Giving blindly can do as much harm as good, so brands looking to donate some change need to make sure they’ve done their research, as well make it very clear to the consumer just where it all goes. Elephant Gin was founded in 2013 with two aims: the first was to make great gin (mission achieved!) and the second was to raise money for two charities – Big Life Foundation and Space for Elephants.
Since their very first bottle went on sale, they’ve donated 15% of profits to these two organisations, raising over €260,000 so far. For Big Life Foundation, Elephant Gin supports 30 out of 250 rangers, covering anything from logistical support to salaries, rations or equipment. Th e rangers work tirelessly to protect elephants, rhinos and lions from poachers, spending day and night in remote outposts. Space for Elephants takes a different approach to conservation, working on educating the locals on how to make money from saving, rather than destroying wildlife. Elephant Gin has just fully funded the construction of an education centre to tackle this very topic, hoping to attract tourists keen to find elephants in the wild.
The opportunities for sponsorship are endless, so the Gerlachs fly out to each foundation at least once a year to check in on ongoing projects, meet new team members and find new areas to invest in. “Working in South Africa and Kenya is way different to what we know in Germany and the UK, so visits are absolutely imperative (and so worth it!). In March we took the Elephant Gin team to South Africa so that they could see elephants in the wild for the first time and meet our partners at Space for Elephants, as well as see the build of our education centre.”
Another animal NGO that benefits form ever-thirsty Gin fans is Gearing Up 4 Gorillas, a UK-registered charity dedicated to the conservation of rare mountain gorillas in Virunga National Park, DR Congo. Graveney Gin (a Tooting Market-based brand that puts the small into small batch, with founder Victoria Christie currently making 30 – 60 bottles at a time) hands over 10% of all its profits to the charity.
Victoria’s love for gorillas (her “soul animal”) developed when she was growing up in South Africa, so when she started up Graveney Gin it was always with the intention of giving a slice of profits away. “I believe that if you start a business you are in the driving seat to do the right thing,” she told us. “Working in corporate environments has taught me the importance of values, and setting this company up from scratch provided me that platform where I can build with the values I stand for.”
So far, Victoria and her team of loyal followers have raised £3100 for Gearing Up 4 Gorillas, an amount that she expects to increase by £1000 during the Christmas rush. Not bad for a one-woman band that only launched in September 2016…
While some brands choose not to use their charitable donations as part of their sales pitch (such as Whitley Neill and its contributions towards de-forestation), others make the idea the number one reason for buying into their brand. Take Scottish based Ginerosity Gin, who place social enterprise front and centre of everything they do, or 1897 Quinine Gin, which supports the Malaria No More foundation.
The bigger brands are getting involved, too. Even Warner Edwards – who sell their gins faster than they can make them – are teaming up with organisations to raise funds. With their delicious Honeybee Gin, not only is the brand helping the plight of bees by encouraging wildflower growth, it’s raising money for the Royal Horticultural Society whilst doing so, aiming to raise an impressive £10,000 in the first year.
What’s clear from a mile away with all of the brands – both those who’ve been driving the charity train since the beginning and those who are hopping aboard now – is a genuine lack of cynicism. The donations aren’t being used to bring in some decent PR, nor to sell the makers as virtuous benefactors (and their products the last stand in benevolence); the charity tie-ins are a necessity to the people behind the brands. Charity is core to who and what they are, and by making small steps to fix the world, these gin makers are proving themselves admirable thought leaders.
What we particularly like about the gins mentioned here, however, is not just the charitable nature of them but the choice they represent to drinkers. If each pound you spend is an endorsement of what and whom you believe in, it’s nice to be given the opportunity to support such endeavours when it comes to picking a gin. Moreover, there is a wide choice of flavours on display here, so it’s not about choosing a gin on charitable ideals alone – the spirits mentioned in this article are high quality offerings that earn merit on flavour alone – irrespective of the greater good.
This will be key to their long-term success, too. Consumers are smart enough to see through a PR stunt but they are also picky enough to not want to drink anything they don’t fundamentally like the taste of in the first place. In a world where the wool is often pulled across our eyes and seemingly horrific things happen at an alarmingly frequent rate, getting the chance to drink tasty gin knowing that in some way it’s done a little bit of good can only be a good thing. Let’s hope 2018 brings a couple of similarly philanthropic ideas into the fray, and that other existing drinks companies look at their corporate social responsibility with renewed vigour…
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