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Can beer stop human trafficking? An interview with Ulf Stenerhag, CEO and founder of Not For Sale Ale

“Having a product that is basically in some way bad, can actually move into the areas of bad activities and promote the issue.” Says Ulf Stenerhag founder and CEO of Not For Sale Ale in an interview with Utrikesperspektiv.se.

Not For Sale Ale aims to create a world where No One is for Sale by investing 100% of the profit in work against human trafficking in Romania. Since founded in Stockholm in 2014, the story of the beer has travelled throughout Europe, even all the way to Uganda. “The people in Uganda heard about the difficulties in Europe and they wanted to help us.” Says Stenerhag.

Utrikesperspektiv.se had an interview with Stenerhag via Skype the 10th of March 2016 where he explains the idea of “doing good” by “doing bad”.

Not For Sale Ale

Initially Not For Sale Ale was a project within the Swedish tech trade company Thurne Teknik where Stenerhag is also the CEO, he explains. It was a performance driven project conducted in order to influence the worker’s personal values and effect the corporate culture, mostly to boost the company‘s productivity. However, the popularity of the beer grew and resulted in establishing the company, Not For Sale AB.

Ulf Stenerhag, founder of Not for Sale Ale. Picture: used with permission from Not For Sale Ale
Ulf Stenerhag, founder and CEO of Not for Sale Ale.
Picture: used with permission from Not For Sale Ale

Not For Sale

All the company’s profit goes into investment to the anti-human trafficking agency Not For Sale. The agency works against human trafficking and states that human trafficking in modern times is more than at any other time in history, enslaving more than 30 million people around the world.

Not For Sale emphasis making a change with “good business”. David Batstone, a journalist and venture capitalist, founded the agency in 2013 and suggest that doing good business can be a better alternative to make social change. David Batstone questions why social problems rely on charity and compassion while corporations emphasis on talent and capital.

Batstone founded the agency in order to go “upstream”. By co-operating with business ventures like Not For Sale Ale, the agency aims to tackle the core of the problem of human trafficking. Furthermore, it shows that an alternative way to fight social problems is businesses implementing values into their practises by investing in corporations that bring profit to the people and the planet.

How to start a company without capital?

Stenerhag decided quickly that the company Not For Sale Ale should not be built on any funding and explains: “Instead of taking the loan for the business I could give it to the trafficking directly.” Thus started the challenge to found a company without any capital.

“The only thing we had was the idea and the why, which many companies are in constant search for.” Says Stenerhag. The business model involves all the production and sales going through already existing business channels. Production is outsourced to medium sized breweries and sales through professional distributors. Profit is earned with licence fees for the brand, similar to other business models like Red Bull. Moreover, by outsourcing all the logistics to business professionals the main operation of Not For Sale Ale’s partners is to promote the product. That is done by raising awareness of human trafficking and telling the story. Stenerhag explains: “The beer is not the thing, it’s the messenger to push forward action.”

“Every day someone called and offer their pro-bono help.” People offered to do labels, promote the product or simply wanted to sell Not For Sale Ale in their restaurants or hotel chains. Stenerhag explains that it was critical to be able to direct contributing partners towards a platform where they could utilize their skills to full potential. As a result, an ambassador program based on action was developed. The network of ambassadors now consist of around 300 partners working worldwide. The ambassador’s main purpose is to promote the product by spreading the story and create awareness. Not For Sale Ale was founded in September 2014 with assistance from their ambassadors.

Can a beer really do good in the world?

“Having a product that is basically in some way bad, can actually move into the areas of bad activities and promote the issue. That is very, very strong.” Explains Stenerhag. “I’m happy when you can see the Not For Sale Ale at a karaoke bar in Thailand.”

The story of the beer has gone viral around the world, around Europe and all the way to Uganda where they were invited to participate in a beer festival in Kampala in November 2015. Stenerhag says it resulted in a great success where they even oversold Heineken, the most popular beer in Uganda. “The people in Uganda heard about the difficulties in Europe and they wanted to help us.” Thereby their ambassador network expanded to Uganda, Stenerhag Explains:  “Local businessmen were fascinated by the story and even founded their own NGO in Kampala.”

Not for Sale Ale quickly spread across the globe. “The people in Uganda heard about the difficulties in Europe and they wanted to help us.” Says Stenerhag. Picture: used with rights from Not For Sale Ale
Not for Sale Ale quickly spread across the globe. “The people in Uganda heard about the difficulties in Europe and they wanted to help us.” Says Stenerhag.
Picture: used with permission from Not For Sale Ale

“We need trade, not aid”

The success inspired Stenerhag to expand the idea further. As a Ugandan businessman told Stenerhag “We need trade, not aid” the future aim of the corporation is to empower local communities. With help from ambassadors, finance can be created while Not For Sale Ale can provide the brand, technology and the story. The idea is to invest in local production enabling communities to set up their own businesses which could create jobs and bring profit to the region.

Can doing good business can be a better alternative to make social change?

Not For Sale Ale states that actions have to be pushed forward in order to create a world where no one is for sale. “In my perspective we need to start to talk about responsible business” Says Stenerhag. As an alternative way to make social change Not For Sale Ale is growing bigger and aiming to expand their business to more countries. Number of ambassadors is still growing working voluntarily in order to work against slavery.

Heiða Vigdís Sigfúsdóttir

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