Years & Years’ Olly Alexander (centre) and the Absolut Choir

Sustaining Humanity

08 December, 2022

There’s more to sustainability than reducing fossil fuels and planting trees. Shay Waterworth looks at the human side and treating people better.

The image of Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers painting covered in tomato soup hit headlines across the world in October. Young activists from Just Stop Oil have been protesting against the use of fossil fuels by not only targeting art, but gluing themselves to landmarks and blocking motorways.

Whether or not you agree with the methods, their actions are a direct response to the lack of government effort in protecting the future of our planet.

Looking inward at the drinks industry, brands have been very good at promising zero carbon emissions and vilifying the use of plastic straws, but without any collaborative incentives, everything is disjointed. The majority of initiatives so far have been done for good PR with few tangible results.

Arguably, the focus from our industry ought to be on what we can individually change, not what we hope to. Therefore human sustainability should be the focus. Often forgotten about behind drowning polar bears and deforestation, human sustainability is the practice of protecting the people around us, both emotionally and economically. Essentially, helping people better their lives to improve our society.

If Al Gore looked at the drinks industry’s diversity, our inconvenient truth would be a lack of it. The wine industry, for example, carries the reputation of white men in red trousers, craft beer is synonymous with the hipster look and the top tier of bartending has been criticised over the years for lacking representation for people of colour. Cuban rum brand Havana Club is now putting a lot of effort into changing this.

Liam Holyoak-Rackal, Havana Club brand & cultural ambassador, has been spearheading a programme to promote diversity within the UK bar scene. “We have championed heritage through culturally empowered collaborations with artists such as Skepta, Ms Banks and most recently Burna Boy, and are now supporting minority ethnic groups within the UK on-trade community through our new collaboration with Black Eats LDN,” says Holyoak-Rackal.

“Black Eats LDN is the UK’s first and only black-owned restaurant directory, which launched in 2020 in response to the lack of exposure of black-owned restaurants in mainstream media. We’re proud to partner with the purpose-led platform to showcase the best in black-owned hospitality and support talent in the bartending community.

“Our partnership with Black Eats LDN is key to building equality in the bartending scene – which isn’t always an easy job. One of the most important things for me was authenticity, and how we could create a grassroots strategy that aligns with our larger-scale collaborations, while also supporting the on-trade community in a way that feels genuine.

“The bartending and hospitality scene is largely a white and male-dominated space and we’re doing our part to spotlight alternative voices as we continue to put diversity at the forefront. This initiative is an exciting part of our journey, and we look forward to ramping up our activity further in the coming months. On a more global scale, we’re continuing to attend trade shows – such as Bar Convent Berlin and London Cocktail Week – to bring the same vision to life among our talented community globally.”

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