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A Spirit Of Continuous Improvement – Reefton Distilling Co. First NZ Whisky Distillery To Achieve Bcorp Certification

Founder Patsy Bass, established Reefton Distilling Co. in 2017 with the goal of setting up a sustainable business to help revitalise Patsy’s hometown of Reefton and to create jobs for local people.

Leading West Coast business Reefton Distilling Co. has become the first New Zealand Whisky Distillery and the first West Coast business to achieve Bcorp certification.

On receiving confirmation of their Bcorp certification, Patsy said, “this is a hugely proud moment for all of our team. We established the business for social good, to create sustainable employment on the West Coast and well-paying careers.” Patsy went on to add, “to now be a Bcorp business is tangible acknowledgement of that early vision and a benchmark we will continue to build from.”

Reefton Distilling Co. began their journey with the Bcorp movement over 18 months ago as a way of benchmarking their social and environmental commitments and practices.

Founded in 2006 by B Lab, a not-for-profit network transforming the global economy to benefit all people, communities, and the planet, Bcorp certification measures a company’s entire social and environmental impact. The B Lab network leads economic systems change to support the collective vision of an inclusive, equitable, and regenerative economy, with programs and tools to help companies plan for a resilient future.

A spirit of continuous improvement

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Patsy founded Reefton Distilling Co. with a 100 year vision. She speaks of its positive impact on the local economy continuing as the years go by, with special reference to generating roles for young people, she said “this business is not just about whisky and gin, it’s about helping to regenerate a town, providing jobs for the next generation, so that they might have a future on the Coast, stay here, raise their own families, keeping the community alive and vibrant. It’s also about attracting new people to the region.”

From the outset, Patsy says she wanted to create a business that offered visitors a unique experience and provide a reason for tourists to add Reefton to their itineraries as a ‘must-do’ location. This transformation has gained momentum in recent years, and Reefton has become a destination in its own right.

Reefton Distilling Co. have always been mindful of their environmental impact, and the distillery operates a bio-diesel boiler. Significant investment in a closed loop cooling system to reuse water, saves hundreds of thousands, if not millions of litres per year going to waste. The minimal waste water created is used to irrigate their own and neighbouring farmland, and the spent grain from whisky production is used to feed the local farmers cows.

One of the founding members of Distilled Spirits Aotearoa, Patsy and her team have been encouraged by the collaborative nature of the New Zealand Spirits Industry and have actively shared their knowledge to help grow the industry for the benefit of all involved.

Patsy commented that smart business looks at a holistic view, combining profit and purpose, adding that joining the Bcorp movement was a logical next step. “We were attracted by the spirit of continuous improvement at the heart of the Bcorp movement” and have been inspired by other Bcorp’s such as Chia Sisters, Ethique, Kowtow Clothing and Sharesies.

Having now joined the community of over 8000 Bcorp’s worldwide, Patsy added that they are committed to becoming carbon zero and continuing their journey to become planet positive in time.

The distillery currently has 13 employees plus several students from the local area school. Patsy commented,

“We work closely with the local high school to identify students interested in after school roles hand labelling our products. One of those students, Emma, joined us as an Assistant Distiller when she left school last year and we look forward to creating more opportunities for young people over time.”

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