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Impact Blog | What is an Eco-Friendly Restaurant?

In 2019, we became the first eco-friendly restaurant in the UK to offer ‘Carbon Neutral Steaks’. This month Martin Williams CEO travelled to Peru to see how our reforestation projects affect the lives of potential victims of modern-day slavery and sex traffickers. This was all in partnership with the ‘Not For Sale’ movement. At Rare, we have great pride in bringing you a truly eco-friendly eating experience at our restaurants in London and throughout the country. We hope you will continue to read about our ethical projects in our Impact blog.

What does it mean to be an eco-friendly restaurant?

It’s our ambition that our restaurants are empathetic, curious and courageous. Since founding M and becoming CEO of Gaucho, we have sought to create values-driven, eco-friendly restaurants at the heart of their communities. This community does not just include the location of the buildings, but also the suppliers around the world. We have numerous examples of how we display this, one of which is our commitment to raising both awareness and consistent financial contributions for the ‘Not for Sale’ movement.

Since 2019 we have contributed to multiple eco-friendly community projects across the globe (mostly South America) which support local communities to work with us on our reforestation programmes. This is one method that enables us to make our supply chain carbon neutral, and helps these communities in the process by creating a reliable living out of rainforest produce. This continues to protect these indigenous tribes and villages in danger of becoming victims of sex trafficking and modern slavery.

Our journey to become a net-zero restaurant and the impact we have on global society is a great source of pride to everyone at Rare Restaurants. This year alone we have planted over 25,000 trees, all to make sure that the steaks in our restaurants are eco-friendly. All in all, our partnership with the ‘Not For Sale’ Movement has improved the lives of over a thousand people.

How restaurants can help combat modern slavery

NFS is an organisation that fights modern slavery and sex trafficking around the globe, founded in 2014. Its founder, David Batstone, explained that his motivation for creating the movement was after he shockingly discovered that his favourite restaurant was made of forced workers. This included both waitresses and chefs, all being exploited by the owner.

For many people, our favourite restaurants are a huge part of our lives, so it’s important that our brand choices reflect the values of those who work and dine in them. I believe when a restaurant goes beyond food, drink and hospitality, it creates an incredible sense of loyalty and pride. Why? Because at their very best, a restaurant is not just a place to eat great food, it’s an organisation that enhances communities and brings about societal changes. At their very worst, like in David Batstone’s discovery, it represents shocking injustice.

My personal passion for restaurants comes from a desire to offer high-quality, eco-friendly eating experiences enjoyed by both a community of like-minded guests and the extraordinary staff who serve them. But more importantly, to contribute to a deeper purpose.

That’s why, since 2015, M restaurants have supported NFS through our ‘M Is Not For Sale’ initiative. This helps fund a project named ‘Dignata’ in Amsterdam, which takes forced sex workers out of the red light district, into the safety of restaurant employment.

Reforestation and plant projects in Peru

I recently travelled to Puerto Maldonado in Peru to witness the impact of two major projects. The first is the reforestation work of ‘Not For Sale’ with Camino Verde, and the second is to visit a village called Boca Pariamanu — a 5,000-hectare plantation (one hectare is around 2.5 acres, so it’s pretty big).

Percy Leva is the leader of the Camino Verde project, which involves growing new saplings from seed. The modest ‘farm’ (if you can call it that) grows around seventy different types of trees, twelve of which are in danger of becoming extinct. The plantation of these trees has an intricate roadmap – a strategy to plant them over a decade. Many of these special trees produce food, medicine and essential oils. All of this produce is vital to support the local ecosystem, and is needed for insects, bees, birds, animals and even human life to survive.

In the company of Percy and his spirited Camino Verde friends, I found a surprising new appreciation for the power of a plant. Who knew?

Reforestation and farming projects in the Amazon

Our ‘Not For Sale’ partnership projects also support nine villages and indigenous people of the Amazon, in Brazil. Illegal mining and ‘logging’ has caused deforestation, meaning the resulting devastation surrounds local villages. Many of these communities live in terrible poverty, so when offered ‘employment opportunities’ by miners, narco-traffickers or loggers, these desperate young people often choose to leave their families. They do this in the hope of providing for their loved ones financially. However, these situations are often far from what is promised, and they end up being raped, abused, or forced into slave labour camps and even prostitution.

The ‘NFS’ movement here has spent twenty years building trust with the villagers. Investing in various transport, reforestation and farming projects has given these communities not only a sustainable existence, but has also allowed them to profit from the natural produce of the forest. This is mainly from the cultivation and commercialisation of produce like brazil nuts and cacao, but also through entrepreneurial projects such as research tourism, jewellery and perfumes. All this means the young people in the community are no longer compelled to be tempted by illegal miners and loggers. Fernando, the leader of the tribe, gave me a tour of their land and introduced me to dozens of happy villagers. They are delighted by their self-sustainability and are always seeking more opportunities to enhance their quality of life even further. Amazing stuff!

Eco-friendly restaurants are the future

In the coming years, each company will embark on a path to become net-zero. We began ours in 2019. There are many ways to approach this, but at Rare Restaurants, we have found a holistic route to provide an eco-friendly eating option for our guests. With the help of partners like ‘Not for Sale’, we have also found a way to improve the planet and the lives of many people. The projects discussed above are evidence of this, and having spoken to many of our employees, this provides a great source of pride and internal community.

The ‘Sustainable Steak Movement’ (SSM) was created in 2021 to share the findings of our scientific research investments in multiple areas. This includes carbon footprint calculations, our findings on best practices in animal husbandry, sequestration, regenerative farming techniques, the decrease of carbon at source and options to reduce greenhouse gases. We have welcomed our invitation to join the SSM, and are working alongside the ‘Zero Carbon Forum’ to encourage other similar organisations to join and begin their own journey to become a net-zero restaurant. If we all work together, this exciting movement has incredible potential.

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