Talking About Tequila with 818 Tequila’s Mike Novy

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Behind 818 Tequila’s 1% for the Planet membership is a drive to operate a sustainable supply chain with minimal environmental impact. Founded by Kendall Jenner, 818 Tequila has contributed generously to environmental partners since 2021.

1% for the Planet CEO, Kate Williams, and 818 Tequila COO & President, Mike Novy, sat down to discuss the tequila brand’s membership and impact.

Kate kicked off the first half of the conversation with questions for Mike:

Kate Williams: So why did 818 join 1% for the Planet?

Mike Novy: One of the core elements of why Kendall wanted to create a business was to create something that was going to be a force for good in the world. She wanted a beautiful product that was well-crafted—but also packaged in a company that was going to be a catalyst for change. From the very beginning, that environmental-social commitment was established within our DNA.

KW: Can you describe how and why the 1% for the Planet certification process played into it? In this day and age of greenwashing, how that may have been a distinguishing factor.

MN: It was a twofold kind of motivation for us. One was so that we did the best job we could in making sure the resources were going to the highest impact areas and that there was someone to help us understand who those people were. We wanted that, but we needed help.

And then also, we had somebody help with guiding us to who these partners might be. We would never have the capabilities or the wherewithal to adequately vet partners, and we knew that that was an extremely important element for us to be able truly to deliver upon this commitment.

KW: How has your giving and charitable focus evolved over time?

MN: It went from idea to reality—which is one really important step. You go from brainstorming a concept to implementation and that changes the way you engage in the world—it becomes a bigger, deeper and more complex commitment.

There's also a snowball effect of seeing the tangible impact that we're making on a community—and then multiple communities and individuals. This is something that is extremely rewarding for us. It just continues to build that momentum for you. It all spirals upward in a very positive way.

KW: Are there particular ways that 1% for the Planet helped along that whole chain of implementation?

MN: There's a thought leadership dimension to this, yet we are not the thought leaders in this area. We have a few good ideas, but we need someone to help us build upon them. 1% for the Planet has institutionalized knowledge, a very practical skill set and connections that make all of that possible.

Agave piñas, or the base of the plant. Photography by 818 Tequila.

KW: Can you dig in a little bit on S.A.C.R.E.D and your Bricks Program? Situate us with the tequila agave process so we know why it’s important.

MN: When you make tequila, you have the liquid that goes into the bottle, a waste liquid and spent agave fibers. There are a variety of ways that people try to dispose of this waste, but it is often handled incorrectly.

Our Bricks Program takes those waste products—the fiber and liquid—and combines it with adobe clay to make bricks. Once those three ingredients bake in the sun, they harden and become construction-worthy. What’s interesting is that the bricks themselves are stronger than your traditional adobe bricks because they have this fiber that runs through them. They're actually more environmentally friendly from an insulation perspective, as well, which in turn has an impact on heating resources that are required.

The process of making brick infrastructure with agave waste liquid & fiber. Photography by 818 Tequila.

So what do we do with those bricks? Through 1% for the Planet, we've partnered with  S.A.C.R.E.D to donate bricks for infrastructure projects in the community of Zapotitlán de Vadillo, Jalisco, Mexico.

One of the things that we value most about the partnership is that S.A.C.R.E.D goes directly to communities and asks what they need. They then come to us and ask how we can collaborate. The mayor of the village said, “What we could use is a library that would teach people, teach members of the community sustainable agriculture.” 

That's what this building then became. It has a five-acre learning laboratory around it, a rewilding project where they can work on different agricultural projects there – and the list goes on and on.

From here, Mike took the lead with questions for Kate:

MN: What makes for a good partnership between 1% for the Planet and another organization or a business?

KW: Really taking that extra step to be strategic about the problem you're trying to solve, the solution you're trying to create and the story you're trying to tell—and then finding those partners. I think creating the conditions for more than just the dollars—or the direct donation—to be exchanged.

In the case of S.A.C.R.E.D. coming to you and saying, ‘Hey, we know this community, we know what the needs are… can we help make your giving that much more powerful and get it in the right place?’

While it's not necessary to give year-over-year to the same environmental partners, we find that when there is some staying power in the commitment, you have time to develop a relationship—and that enables it to be much more valuable for everyone.

MN: How does 1% for the Planet view its work with 818? I'd love to get your thoughts on that.

KW: Yeah, definitely. There are a couple of different components of why it's been really amazing to work with 818. One is the intent to build this ethos into the DNA of the company. I think that's really special because it makes it so core—it leads to a real investment in the partnerships and a real commitment to being strategic.

Photography by 818 Tequila.

I think also the way in which 818 has thought about and implemented its giving is really pushing the boundaries of environmental giving—exactly the way 1% of the Planet is seeking to expand the definition of environmentalism from traditional to resource-based.

The farm holder community development that you're doing, the LGBTQ focus, reproductive rights, showing up at events… I think all of that helps to tell a more complex story about how we create a thriving future for our planet and people. That's what we're all about—to have partners like 818 who are driving meaningful impact and making the environmental movement more complex (in all of the ways that any good ecosystem is complex). We really value and appreciate that.

MN: Thank you… Environmental positivity impacts all of us. One of the things that's kind of fun for me is that being in this space is a conversation starter. It's not just a marketing message—it’s a way of life and a type of commitment. It’s inspiring.

KW: That's really great. We actually really think of our members as change makers, impact drivers and ambassadors for the brand. So in those conversations, when you're a really effective 1% member, I think you have a real opportunity to be a pollinator of the model.

MN: We hope so. It’s a deep commitment that has a lot of action behind it. And so you're right, there is definitely pollinating going on.

KW: It's so awesome to sit here and listen to all of what you're doing—it's amazing how core it is and just a beautiful example of what we hope for our members in terms of the commitments they're making. So thank you for that.

MN: Thank you. That's really heartwarming to hear because it’s a real thing. From a founder perspective, Kendall has made sure that we have followed through on taking an idea to implementation. It’s really deeply rooted in our organization.

KW: Awesome. So great to hear. Well, thanks so much for your time.

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