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Impact Blog: Ethical Eating – Becoming A Carbon Neutral Restaurant
A Letter By Martin Williams CEO

Where we explore our journey to becoming a zero carbon business.

In 2019 we became the first restaurant in the UK to offer Carbon Neutral Steaks. This month Martin Williams CEO went to Peru to see how our reforestation projects affect the lives of potential victims of modern-day slavery and sex traffickers, in partnership with the ‘Not For Sale’ movement. At Rare we are very proud to bring you a truly ethical and conscious dining experience. We hope you will continue to read about our ethical projects in our blog….

“I read David Batstone’s story in 2014, where he explained that his motivation for creating the ‘Not for Sale’ movement -NFS (which fights modern-day slavery and sex trafficking around the globe) was his discovery that his favourite Indian restaurant was full of waitresses and chefs who were forced workers.

My personal passion for restaurants stems from a desire to offer unique dining experiences of the highest quality enjoyed equally by a both a community of like-minded guests and the wonderful people who work at Gaucho and M. Occasionally a restaurant can be even more than this…

We all love our favourite restaurants, they are our lives; our brand choices are personal and reflect the values of those who work and dine in them- so when a restaurants steps beyond food, drink and hospitality; at it’s best it can generate immense loyalty and pride through enhancing communities and bringing societal changes. At worst, like in David’s discovery, it can represent the worst of the world.

I’ve always had an ambition that the restaurants I lead are hubs of empathy, curiosity and courage; Since founding M and becoming CEO of Gaucho we have sort to create restaurants which are proudly values driven. We have numerous examples of how we display this, one of which has been our commitment to raise both awareness and sustained financial contributions for the ‘Not for Sale’ movement.

In doing so, since 2015 we have supported NFS through our ‘M Is Not For Sale’ initiative which supports a project named ‘Dignata’ in Amsterdam which takes forced sex-workers out of the windows of the red light district, into the safety of employment (in restaurants).

Equally holistically, since 2019 we have contributed to over a dozen projects across the globe (predominantly in south America) which fund local communities to work with us on our reforestation programmes, which de-carbonises our supply chain, improves the global planet and in doing so has helped to kick-start the (would-be victims’) entrepreneurial endeavours to make a sustainable living out of the products of the rainforests. This continues to protect these indigenous tribes and villages in danger of becoming victims of sex trafficking and slavery.

To ensure that the steaks in our restaurants are Carbon Neutral, this year we have planted over 25,000 trees and our partnership with the ‘Not For Sale’ Movement has positively changed the lives of a over thousand people. Our journey to net zero and the impact we have had on global society is rightly a great source of pride to everyone who works at Rare Restaurants…

This month, I travelled to Puerto Maldonado in Peru to see the impact of two projects; the reforestation work of ‘Not For Sale’ with Camino Verde and in to visit the village of Boca Pariamanu a 5000 hectare plantation.

Percy Leva is the leader of the Camino Verdi project; a nursery which is the hub of growing new saplings from seed. The modest ‘farm’ grows over seventy different varietals of tree, of which a dozen are in danger of becoming extinct. The plantation of these trees is well thought out with a strategic roadmap of over a decade. Many of the varieties produce food, others medicine, some essential oils; All act to support the local ecosystem vital for the survival of insects, bees, birds, animals and as the COO of Not For Sale put bluntly “Human life”.

As you can imagine in the company of Percy and his spirited Camino Verde colleagues, I found an untapped love and appreciation for the power of a plant!

Our NFS partnership projects also support nine villages and indigenous people of the Amazon. These villages are surrounded by the devastation caused by illegal mining and  ‘logging’ (which is causing devastating, deforestation of the rainforest). Historically these communities lived in dire poverty and  when approached by miners, narco-traffickers or loggers with ‘employment opportunities’ young men and women left their families with the intent to financially provide for them. Tragically, the jobs, situations and lives of these victims, were not as promised and they were raped and abused, forced into slave labour camps and prostitution.

The ‘Not for Sale’ movement has spent two decades building trust with the villagers and though investing in transport, reforestation and farming projects has given these communities not only a maintainable existence (in terms of food and health), but also enabled them to profit from the produce of the forest, primarily cultivating and commercialising brazil nuts and cacoa and by supporting entrepreneurial projects including research tourism, jewelry and perfumes.

The tribe leader Fernando generously gave me a tour of their land and introduced me to dozens of villagers who were amongst the happiest people you will come across, delighted by their new found self-sustainability, ambitiously seeking further opportunities to grow their quality of life.

Every company in the coming years will embark on a journey to Net Zero and will approach it in many ways. At Rare Restaurants, we began our journey in 2019 and have holistically found a route to provide a ‘carbon conscious’ ethical dining option for our guests and the broader restaurant scene. With the help of ‘Not for Sale’ we have also found a way to unquestionably improve the planet and the lives of many people. Having spoken to many of our team members, I know this provides a great source of pride and belonging.

We founded the ‘Sustainable Steak Movement’ in 2021 to share the findings of our scientific research investments in carbon footprint calculations and our findings on best practice in animal husbandry, regenerative farming techniques, sequestration, the reduction of carbon at source and options to offset greenhouse gasses. Our invitation to join the SSM has been welcomed by many and we are working with the ‘Zero Carbon Forum’ to incorporate the SSM into some of their key focus groups to encourage others to join. Working together, this ambitious movement has immeasurable potential.”


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