How ethical business is changing the world one G&T at a time
Two-thirds of consumers are willing to pay more for “products and services that come from companies committed to a positive social and environmental impact”.
That’s the eye-opening statistic from a survey of 30,000 consumers by Neilson, which should motivate any business wanting to tap into switched-on consumers.
In Edinburgh, a group of entrepreneurs have now taken the ethical business concept and applied it to the booming gin market, which last year recorded UK sales of £1billion, with exports also up 40% in the past five years.
It was, as Chris Thewlis, one of Ginerosity’s founding directors said, a very obvious decision. “We had the opportunity to create a gin that would do good. Why wouldn’t we do that?”
Ginerosity launched in November 2016, claiming the prestigious title of “the world’s first social enterprise gin”, and committing itself to supporting disadvantaged young adults with its profits. In its first year it funded seven young adults to attain a business qualification from the Chartered Management Institute. It was, adds social entrepreneur Chris, “a meaningful and respected qualification that most of these young adults - if not all of them - would have struggled to afford”.
The social enterprise sector has rocketed in recent years. Good business is big business, with the sector now contributing £24billion to the UK economy and 70,000 social businesses employing about one million people. According to a survey by Social Enterprise UK, social businesses better weathered the turbulent economy, including those in the drinks and hospitality trade, showing that ethical business is better for your company’s health.
Chris says: “The difference about our social enterprise gin is that we run it like any other business. It’s what we do with the profits that’s different. We reinvest them in the community. People, whether they’re gin fans or bar buyers, respond very well to that; they like to buy something that has a positive social impact.”
Last month, Ginerosity was one of several brands involved in an Ethical Cocktail Night run by Harry’s Southside in Edinburgh, part of Airbnb’s social impact experience programme.
Ben Ashcroft, Operations Manager at Harry’s, said: “The fact a massive global firm like Airbnb, which has superb customer engagement and so it really has a feel for what its customers want, is backing social businesses like Harry’s shows that the ethical consumer is here to stay. Customers are changing their habits in how they buy things.”
Certainly recent headlines around animal welfare, sourcing palm oil, and the recycling of plastics show there’s a greater awareness among consumers keen to know a product’s provenance, as well as the impact their purchasing decisions are having upon the environment and the community. Aware of consumers collective influence, words like “provenance” and “impact” are becoming buzzwords among brands.
Liam Ackerman of Unwind Social, an ethical pop-up and events bar in Hertfordshire that supports a number of good causes, said: “We started Unwind because we identified that consumers are becoming increasingly conscious of what they buy, where they buy it and what social and environmental impact it has. To stock and serve ethical brands is a superb way of showing to our customers that they don't have to change their buying habits, budgets or taste to make a positive difference. They can contribute in the simplest of ways, a gin and tonic with friends, for example.”
Dan Lee Searle is one of the young adults who benefitted from Ginerosity funding last year and who introduced the ethical gin to the upmarket cocktail bar Boadicea in Essex. “Bar buyers know that by adding ethical products to their supply chain it brings a greater connection between the bars and consumers, and that by offering social products they then add to and craft their company’s personality. People like to help other people, and if they can do that by enjoying a cocktail with some mates, then you’re on to a real winner.”
Chris says: “People literally buy into a good product that has a good purpose,” adding: “I think it’s good practise for bars, hotels and restaurants to have ethical brands as part of their gantry or portfolio. Why wouldn’t you want to sell a premium product that supports a good cause. Essentially, it’s nice to help people, and that’s an easy thing to buy into.”