Buying into brands that give back

Assembly Rooms

Reece Ward, bars and catering duty manager, Assembly Rooms 

The expectation for companies and brands to act ethically has grown over recent years and for many, their socially responsible credentials are helping boost their reputation. Consumers place a lot of importance on a brand’s promise to give back, whether that be to the local community, by sourcing their products ethically or simply taking measures to be more environmentally sustainable.

Gone are the days of bars, restaurants and venues selecting their menus with simply profit in mind.

Consumers want to know that they share consistent values with the companies they buy from, products they use and events they attend. As a result, CSR programmes have grown far beyond token charitable initiatives and, in some cases, are completely reshaping how companies do business – all the way through the supply chain. So with most of us now looking for better reasons to buy, businesses and consumers are putting their money where their morals are and supporting charitable brands.

At Assembly Rooms, we stock a wide selection of food and drink items; but when choosing our stockists, we ensure we’re supporting the brands that give something back, wherever possible.

Brewgooder Cleanwater Lager is stocked on all of our bars, for all events. This craft beer has quickly become a firm favourite since it was introduced in 2016, and we’re sure it’s partly because it’s committed to donating 100% of its profits to charities providing clean water to countries around the world, such as Malawi. Last year [2018], we sold enough Brewgooder across the four Council-owned Cultural Venues (Assembly Rooms, Usher Hall, Church Hill Theatre and the Ross Bandstand) to provide clean drinking water for 424 people for a minimum of 5 years. It’s an added bonus that Brewgooder is a local beer, with its headquarters in Leith.

Three of our four house wines originate from the award-winning Nederburg estate in Paarl, South Africa. This long-standing vineyard is not only renowned for its wine but has also set up a thriving bicycle assembly facility on its estate in partnership with charity Qhubeka, producing 5,000 purpose-built bicycles every year. These are then given to local rural communities to improve their quality of life.

Our soft drink offering includes the range from Karma Cola, a company that supports eight farming communities in Sierra Leone, helping to pay for things such as education and infrastructure. Karma Cola is also committed to ensuring that the farmers in Sierra Leone who grow the Kola nut are paid fairly for their efforts.

The Belu bottled water that we provide for delegates at conferences and for seated dinners donates 100% of its net profits to WaterAid, which aims to make clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene a normality for everyone, everywhere.

When it comes to hot drinks, we source our coffee from Coffee Conscience. This company is a big supporter of local community groups and donates a percentage of every sale to various community and environmental projects around the world. Our tea supplier of choice is Eteaket, another Edinburgh based company within walking distance of the Assembly Rooms. Eteaket is a proud member of the Ethical Tea Partnership, working to improve the lives of tea workers and the environment in which tea is produced.

Aside from drinks, we stock Mackies’s Ice-cream and Mackie’s crisps for certain events. Mackie’s is a proudly Scottish brand which is very committed to environmental stewardship. Its 160-acre farm in Aberdeenshire has its own wind farm, solar panels, and biomass plant to provide energy for its activities.  

As well as sourcing products that benefit good causes, people want companies to clean up their act, especially when it comes to the overuse of plastics and unnecessary packaging of products. We are careful to source as much of our barware from eco-friendly suppliers as possible, and all of our disposable drinks containers are made from Bioware, a fully compostable material that is produced from sustainable managed forests. Even our bar equipment is as environmentally friendly as we can make it, with the matting that we stand on when mixing drinks made from 100% recycled plastic bottles and car tyres.

People want to see brands align with their concerns and so knowing who you’re buying from and what you’re buying can do a world of good for the business, and the planet.

While we are focussed on providing the best possible customer experience and ensuring that we cater to everyone’s tastes, we like to think that our customers would want to know that when they order a drink, they are doing their little bit to help a good cause somewhere!