Celebrating Provenance: Darwin & Wallace
Darwin & Wallace signed up to the Food Made Good Standard back in 2012. We caught up with Brand Manager Jessica Closs to talk about sustainability at Darwin & Wallace and how celebrating provenance lies at the foundation of this business.
When creating Darwin & Wallace, founder and Managing Director Mel Marriott wanted to turn unloved and underperforming sites into local bars with a rich, unique character. From the very beginning, the goal was to do everything possible to minimise environmental impact – which is why Mel went looking for a sustainability accreditation as part of her initial business plan. The rest, as they say, is history; Darwin & Wallace signed up to the Food Made Good Standard straight away and have built the process into operations ever since. They achieved a coveted three stars in 2017 and have since maintained this – a reflection of a truly outstanding commitment to sustainable business practices. We spoke to Brand Manager Jessica Closs about their accreditation, the team’s sustainability goals and how Darwin & Wallace celebrates provenance.
The FMG Standard effect
“For nearly 11 years now, we have loved seeing and taking part in the evolution that Food Made Good has gone through,” says Jessica, who is quick to extol the virtues of the Standard for other businesses. “Go for it! Join the FMG Community and learn from others. There are some incredible operators out there innovating daily. Find things that you believe in and bring the team along with you.”
Jessica tells us that they’re always looking for new ways to engage in meaningful conversations with their guests, and that the Food Made Good Standard is a great way to start these discussions. “We know people are interested in our FMG practices; it is always a welcome surprise when people spot our sustainability journey on our website.” This journey is an ambitious one, to say the least.
Small business, big-picture thinking
“We are a relatively small business,” says Jessica. “The positive changes we make will always be important, but this work becomes significantly more impactful when it’s done on a larger scale or becomes policy.” The team at Darwin & Wallace is careful to consider how their decisions could help to influence change on a larger scale, whether at local or national level, or globally. For every positive change they make, they consider how they can amplify their impact.
“In an industry based on consumption, we are always seeking ways to reduce waste,” says Jessica. “From being mindful of gas and equipment usage to just switching off the lights at night, we are convinced that every little bit helps. We make conscious operational decisions as a company to reduce waste and train our teams to split waste. With better national policies, this could become a basic standard for all businesses.”
Since its inception, the business has had an agreement with food suppliers to take back and reuse boxes and packaging where possible. “This is an initiative of which we are incredibly proud,” says Jessica. “Imagine the impact and change that would come about if this was the rule rather than an exception.”
She notes that the drinks industry is ruled by premiumisation and branding. “While we know that not all gin is created equal, at the end of the day, that branding just ends up in the recycling bin,” she says. Stripping away what is ultimately unnecessary, Darwin & Wallace stock one gin that is primarily refilled from a bag-in-a-box, and are exploring tequila delivered in kegs that can be taken away, cleaned, refilled and reused. They’ve been considering wine on tap for a number of years now, but won’t make the leap from bottle to tap “until it is a closed loop, end-to-end sustainable solution that delivers on quality to our guests.”
Here, too, they’re eager to have a bigger impact, but their efforts to start a ripple effect are not always successful. Three years ago, they approached a premium pouring brand that they work with to ask if there was anything in their roadmap that could help both businesses to reduce waste and carbon footprint. Citing quality control, the brand said this was not on the immediate horizon. “With the clout that these global brands have,” says Jessica, “a change from just one business would see others racing to be next.”
A passion for provenance
Provenance is a cornerstone of sourcing across everything at Darwin & Wallace: food, drinks and non-F&B supplies. “Provenance gives us a reason to start a conversation with a potential new supplier,” says Jessica. “It’s a hook, an anchor on which to form a partnership. Working with provenance in mind gives us a great opportunity to be inspired by, champion and share the journey of other like-minded people and producers.”
Darwin & Wallace works closely with key suppliers and is meticulous in securing written agreements that favour local or British produce and include commitments to specific animal welfare standards, sustainable seafood, palm oil-free products and ethical trade commitments. They also require environmental and land management commitments from each supplier. The team is proud to have their own small gardens at a number of sites where they keep bees for honey and experiment with growing ingredients like rhubarb, hard herbs and tomatoes themselves.
Conscious of the growth in demand for non-alcoholic options, Darwin & Wallace champion ethically sourced green coffee beans from a local London roastery and preservative-free, freshly squeezed juice. On the menu, you’ll find Karma Cola, LemonAID, ChariTEA and DASH waters – all chosen for being great tasting products that operate fairly and ethically and give back to the communities from which they come.
The team takes inspiration from the produce, people and businesses within their network, and has always felt that provenance is something to celebrate. “Taking the Standard and being part of the FMG community helps us reinforce and celebrate the importance of provenance. We love the chance to meet and learn from even more incredible and passionate people.”
The business is always on the lookout for producers and products that not only taste great but have a story and are innovative, driving change in their own way or doing something new. Meanwhile, in-house messaging and training are key. “Part of our sustainability journey will always be reinforcing our ideas and standards with our team as it grows,” Jessica wraps up. “Our business is ever evolving.”
THE FOOD MADE GOOD STANDARD IS BETTER THAN EVER! HERE'S HOW...
- Food Made Good
6 REASONS TO BE EXCITED ABOUT OUR FANCY NEW WEBSITE
- Food Made Good
NEW PARTNER ALERT! BONIVIRI IS BRINGING FOOD MADE GOOD TO ITALY
- Food Made Good