Edrington’s APAC Managing Director Talks About Its Quiet Commitment To Charity

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In 2015, Edrington’s Asia Pacific managing director Martin Reimann had a sudden fervour to cycle from his home in Singapore to Kuala Lumpur – a 400km journey that he knew, was not going to be easy. But when he shared his vision with his colleagues around the region, a number of them showed interest and suggested to push it into a project with a charitable arm. Coincidentally, it was the same year Singapore celebrated its 50th year of independence. The country pledged to match dollar-for-dollar, donations to eligible charities.  That year, Reimann and his team raised close to S$120,000 for Child at Street 11; NGO that aims to educate and help young children from low-income and dysfunctional families break out of the poverty cycle.

The subsequent year saw the team cruise from Taipei to Kaohsiung, covering a distance of 500km to raise NT$5,000,000 for the Kaohsiung Autism Family; a grassroots charity that was founded by a mom who had wanted to raise awareness for her autistic son. Fast forward to this November, and the mileage will be again upped by another 100km for a four-day ride in Cambodia for M’Lop Tapang Organization, which helps with vocational training and education among impoverished children and families.

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While Edrington may not be a household name, the brands it represents are definitely recognisable: The Macallan, The Famous Grouse, Brugal Rum, Cutty Sark, Highland Park, The Glenrothes and Snow Leopard Vodka. Though its labels are known worldwide, Reimann says subtlety is key when it comes to Edrington’s charity, which is why it doesn’t work with “global international charities with enormous structures and are very well-funded”.

“We have a couple of filters: but in a nutshell, we ask ourselves whether the cause makes a difference and does it change lives. We are bringing to the surface things that may not be so obvious to people who are not immediately faced with needs. We want to lead by example, to inspire: what we as city-goers see on a daily basis are industry, restaurants, flashy buildings; but when you take the blinkers off, you’ll be surprised,” he said, adding that Edrington isn’t afraid of backing charities that deal with heavier, contentious issues like child prostitution and human trafficking.

“We aren’t scared to look into issues that are – for the lack of a better word – ‘unsexy’; we don’t do political lens, we do ‘need’.”

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Though the group’s devotion to charity has only come under the limelight after the recent auction of The Macallan’s Legacy Collection. The nett profit from the auction, all HK$6.3 million of it, went to charities like Society for Community Organization, Foodlink Foundation, Crossroads Foundation, Watsi and One Sky Foundation. Doing good has been a large part of Edrington’s founding principals, ever since the Robertson sisters set up a trust fund back in 1960s. To date, the trust fund has donated more than £230million to charities with causes for medical aid, children, the elderly, the disabled, and local community welfare.

Today, though individual brands have charitable causes of their own – The Macallan’s contribution as stated above, and Snow Leopard pledging 15 percent of profits to the conservation of the big cats – the group still puts 100 percent of its dividends into the Robertson Trust Fund, signing cheques that average £20million a year.

“We are a company that has lasted and will last for a long time. Edrington is about legacy, so the decisions we make today will influence the 20 to 30 years to come,” said Reinmann. “Of course, we’re standing on the shoulders of the giants before us, so when it’s our moment, we have to do the best we can”

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