For us accepting social and environmental responsibility is simple: it means to give more than to take; to preserve, and if possible, improve, for future generations. It means being an active and responsible part of our community.
Measuring a business only in traditional profit and loss accounts and balance sheets is short-sighted, even dangerous when bad decisions are made for short-term financial gains.
Yes, we need to be profitable to secure the future of our business and staff, but this is only one way of looking at success. We also need to take care of the environment we live in, our nearby community and our people. Without this in mind, what is the worth of financial gain?
The trick is to find the right balance; we are convinced we can do both, little by little, step by step.
We have just started our work and we have a long way to go. Here are some examples of how we are trying to think and act responsibly.
As most electricity in Thailand is generated by burning fossil fuels, every electrical unit we save not only cut costs but also reduce CO2 emissions.
In addition, an overall reduced electricity consumption will contribute to fever dams being built on Mekong and Salween rivers in our neighbouring countries. These mega projects have serious negative effects on the environment and livelihood of millions of people. For more information please check out http://www.savethemekong.org/
Here are some examples of what we do to reduce our electricity consumption;
Shortage of clean fresh water is a major problem around the world even though in Chiang Rai it may not seem that obvious, at least not for ten months of the year. Water treatment is a major source of dangerous waste chemicals and consumes a lot of electricity. Every drop we can save is important, so we:
In addition we use only concentrated phosphate free, biodegradable liquid washing detergents for both our kitchen and laundry. We try to find recyclable packaging even though this is not easy.
As we all know paper is made from trees and the process is very polluting and energy consuming. We try to reduce our paper consumption as much as possible.
We use only non-bleached, recycled paper whenever possible for toilet paper, napkins and menus.
We use textile napkins as much as possible.
We buy only virgin paper made from certified sustainable forest plantations.
When printing is absolutely needed, we print on both sides.
Our cars and motorcycles and the transport services we buy for food and other products are by far the most polluting aspects of our business.
All our cars are new with the lowest possible fuel consumption and emissions, but still this is our Achilles heel. Reducing this foot print is a very tough challenge as Thailand does not have any good alternative to petrol or diesel-based fuels. Once they are in place we will support them whole heartedly.
We buy as much produce as we can fresh and locally, minimizing transport and cold storage.
Waste disposal in Chiang Rai is a real problem. Most of it, including hazardous waste, ends up being burned or dumped in landfills. We have not yet found a way to effectively recycle our waste or handle hazardous waste, but we are working hard on it.
Sadly newspapers, magazines, printed matter and all plastic (except bottles) right now are discarded as we haven’t found anyone who can recycle them for us. Not good, but we are not giving up!
Our philosophy is to create locally and globally recognized dishes, made as far as possible from local ingredients. This benefits local farmers and suppliers and we reduce our environmental footprint caused by transportation and storage.
We are a strong supporter of Slow Food and their philosophy of GOOD, CLEAN and FAIR FOOD.
As an example, we will never sell fresh oysters airfreighted into Thailand and delivered in refrigerated trucks. Yes they taste great and there is a demand for them, but from an environmental point of view, it is madness.
We will never sell dishes made from shark fin, turtle, foie gras, blue fin tuna, tiger prawns or from any endangered or protected animal species. We support many campaigns in this respect and below are some good examples.
We will never sell dishes made from fish species on endangered lists or from sensitive areas. This is very difficult to fulfil, particularly in Asia, but by saying no to some species we limit our risk quite considerably. Right now we serve only John Dory from Australia and not on any endangered lists.
We use only organic free range chicken eggs produced by local Hilltribe farms. For more information please find below link;
The majority of our vegetables are organically grown in the Mae Chan area. We are setting up our own organic farm in Mae Salong. The idea is to grow staple fruits, vegetables and herbs for use in the café exclusively. This way we can better control the supply chain. We will hire local people to run the farm with fair wages and high standard organic conditions as cornerstones. It’s a very challenging and complicated project but very important for our future. Updates to follow!
Chiang Rai is blessed with wonderful soil and climate conditions suitable for Arabica coffee and the standard of local roasters is constantly improving. There is really no reason why any coffee served in Thailand should be imported! Selling Colombian coffee in Thailand, to take one example, is as insane from an environmental point of view as selling Norwegian bottled water. We source all our organic coffee from Doi Pahee and Doi Chang, specially roasted for us.
Our soya bean milk is certified organic from Australia. We are actively looking for a local supplier of organic milk and butter, which we hope to find soon.
Our pork, chicken and beef are sourced locally from certified organic suppliers. This is a very tough area to control as livestock feed is difficult to trace and growth hormones and antibiotics are regularly used in the business. We are working very hard to find a local supplier of organic beef and hope to identify one soon.
Expanding commercial palm oil plantations are the main cause of the destruction of virgin rain forests around the world, primarily in Malaysia and Indonesia. We do not use any palm oil ingredients in our food and we work hard to detect and remove any product that contain it. This is not easy as the commercial use of palm oil is widespread, but we are doing our best.
Wines and Beers
It is very difficult to buy organic wines and beer as grapes, hops and barley are sensitive to insects and fungus and are treated with chemical pesticides and fungicides. Some producers even use weed killers to clear their fields and chemical fertilizers to enhance yields. Furthermore the production processes are mostly secret and ingredients used not often publicly disclosed on the labels. Very few producers offer organic alternatives, and even fewer declare the full content of their products, including the use of chemical taste enhancers, preservatives and GM crops.
We will continue to source organic alternatives. At the moment we offer Seresin Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand and Norrebro NY Lager from Denmark that are certified organic. More to come!
Uniforms and Promotional items
We are right now redesigning our staff uniforms and will do our outmost to use organic, non-bleached cotton. This is not easy to find in Thailand but we will do our best.
Building Materials and Decoration
We only buy old furniture and old wood, the only exception being locally made brand new wicker furniture. This is not only because we like the look, history and value of old things, it’s also a great way to reuse resources already spent.
When constructing our café and spa we wanted the look of old wooden clapboard houses but in fact 75% of the materials are brand new poly-wood planks, which is a mix of saw dust waste, stabilizers, glue and polyester resin. Another 20% was old teak and iron wood from two huts previously on the land; this was perfect for our flooring and terraces. In the end only 5% was new logs, mainly for the large beams in the ceilings and for some new built-in cabinets.
It is almost impossible to trace the origins of hardwood in Thailand and there are very few certified plantations. Most commercial hardwood originates from Burma and Laos; buying it without documentation means supporting deforestation of virgin or protected forest areas, poor treatment of local communities and environment and indirectly funding criminal organisations.
Endangered Animal Species and Poor Animal Treatment
Our planet loses animal species at an ever-increasing rate caused by greed, old outdated traditions and beliefs and short-term financial gain. Lots of animals are being raised in horrible conditions, not for food, but for trophies, decorative items, hand bags, clothing and accessories.
We will never buy products made from endangered animals such as ivory; crocodile, tiger or snake skins; Pashmina wool or rhino horn or any kind of animal fur, endangered or not, including mink and fox. We are completely ok with products made from the skins or horns of animals raised for food, but nothing else.
We will endeavour to buy meat from suppliers who raise their livestock humanely and with respect.
Endangered Plants and Sustainable Farming
The world also loses plant species at an alarming rate mainly due to the effects of non-sustainable commercial farming and deforestation. Seed and land supply are being monopolized by large corporations with short-term financial goals. This is true all over the world as well as in Thailand.
Consumers generally have no idea about the true story of what they buy as there are no labelling requirements on products containing GM crops, for example. We have no objections to crop science in general, in fact we support it, but we strongly object to the way some GM crops are farmed with massive amounts of chemical pesticides and fertilizers.
We also object to the practice of some corporations to patent seeds and even animal species in an effort to control the entire food supply chain, worldwide.
We want our garden not only to be fresh and beautiful but also toxin free. Therefore we use no chemical based fertilizers or weed killers, only natural products made locally or our own compost. We have a house in the Doi Mae Salong area with plenty of trees and grass that supply us all the leaf, branches and other organic waste that we need to produce good compost.
We rarely buy new flowers and plants and instead propagate them at our small nursery in Mae Salong.
Staff and Ethics
We are blessed in having a great team of people with different background, age, sex, ethnicity, religion, language and sexual orientation. It really creates a melting pot of fun, different ideas and crazy situations! We welcome diversity and we don’t discriminate.
All our local and foreign staff are paid salary, overtime and social security according to Thai law and are given all statutory holidays and leave. Employment is covered by contracts registered with the Government. We run a staff provident fund, profit-sharing scheme and special accident insurance covering all staff. All foreign staff have work permits.
We constantly send our staff to training courses to further improve their skills, particularly chefs, baristas, bakers and cocktail mixers but we also offer staff basic studies in English, Chinese and other languages.
Our business is run via a properly registered company with annual accounts and audits. We follow VAT regulations strictly and all our Alcohol and Cigars are taxed as per government regulations.
We have never solicited, paid or accepted bribes, and we never will.
Supporting local community
With so many wonderful NGOs operating in Chiang Rai and the social and human need being so large, it’s very difficult to choose which projects to support. We have chosen a few where we feel we can contribute and also to some degree, participate. We also offer local artists the opportunity to display their work and hopefully sell it in our café, free of charge.