A Calgary brewing company brings new meaning to the term “ethical consumption”
The growing trend of ethical consumption has taken Cause Marketing to the next level — Cause Capitalism. Instead of merely aligning their businesses with a charitable organization for mutual benefit, savvy do-gooders realize for-profit companies can funnel dollar-voting into worthy causes from the get-go. Cause Capitalism sustains giving through the power of commerce. But even when hearts are in the right places, the path of altruistic enterprise is not always smooth.
Photo by Ned RadanU2 front man Bono and his wife Ali Hewson made headlines when they launched their clothing company Edun, hoping to encourage trade in Africa. Unfortunately they made headlines again when Bono dumped $20 million of his own money into the company to keep it afloat. Although it manufactures some items in Africa, currently Edun makes more than half of its product in China.
Also trying to do good on a global scale, Toms Shoes has a straightforward “buy one give one” model. For every pair of shoes sold, the company gives a pair to someone in need. Yet some critics accuse Toms of making millions with a marketing ploy that monetizes guilt. Others raise concerns that giving shoes away only treats the symptoms of poverty, rather than actually helping people in the long term.
Meanwhile, a Calgary company is taking a different approach to Cause Capitalism, keeping the benefits of ethical consumption in its own backyard. And ethical consumption has never been more literal. Besides crafting thirst-quenching lagers and ales, Village Brewery was created to support Calgary’s artists and craftspeople.
“In my mind it’s not cause — it’s community,” says Jim Button, co-founder of Village Brewery. “It’s a nuance, but it’s a fairly big nuance.”
Launched at the end of 2011, ten percent of Village Brewery’s net profits go to the community. Not to mention a gallery shop at the tasting room where all proceeds go to the featured artists. However, mindful of “give a fish or teach to fish” criticism, Jim takes a mentorship approach when giving aid to artisans, especially when the Brewery participates in festivals and events.
“It’s more than just giving them beer, it’s more than just giving them cash. It’s helping guide them as a cultural entity,” he says. “Time is a pretty big element that we add to our sponsorships.”
Photo by Ned RadanThe reason he has the time to give is due to the company’s limited growth strategy. Before they brewed their first batch of beer, the founders of Village Brewery decided to sell their suds only to Calgary bars, restaurants and liquor stores. But putting the brakes on empire-building doesn’t exclude making a good product — and making a profit. The motivation behind Village Brewery might be supporting the arts, but ultimately it is a business first.
“The quality has to be through everything,” says Jim. “If the beer isn’t good, then everything else becomes moot. Then [the Village community] turns into a marketing thing versus a real thing.”
If the judges’ taste buds at the Alberta Beverage Awards are to be believed, Village Brewery is the real thing. Its seasonal Cucumber Farmhouse Ale recently scooped an honour for Best In Class, setting a precedent for mouth-watering ethical consumption.
A former broadcast journalist who has worked for CBS, ABC and CBC, Tiffany began covering financial news when she was based in Toronto, working for CityTV and Cable Pulse 24. The UBC graduate’s career has seen her report on a wide variety of topics, including directing and producing a feature documentary about a controversial undercover police tactic, Mr. Big.
Besides her work for You Inc, Tiffany is also creative director for the fashion/lifestyle website Blue Besos. In between, she tries to find time to work on a novel about the TV news industry.
Her favourite interview ever was with cellist Yo Yo Ma.