Health + Wellness

Edrington Charity Cyclists Ride For M’Lop Tapang

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For the third year running, 50 Edrington staff – including their global CEO Ian Curle – and representing 20 nationalities cycled more than 600km from Siem Reap in the North of Cambodia to Sihanoukville in the South.

The 2017 Ride helped raised funds for M’Lop Tapang, a safe haven for vulnerable children and support to those at risk of abuse, based in Sihanoukville.

Donations are still welcome and can be made at this website. Information about Erdington’s Charity Cyclists can be found here.

We speak with Mr. Martin Reimann, Regional Managing Director, Asia Pacific & India, Edington about the Ride, the background and how this project has shaped his thinking around charitable causes.

The Active Age (AA): What’s the background behind this passion project?

Martin Reimann (MR): Back in 2015, I decided that I needed to start getting fit once again. I have been an avid cyclist as a child and have always enjoyed cycling. I was living in Singapore and when I got back on a bike it was a love affair – there’s a sense of freedom and a certain elegance to it. And so it dawned on me that I can just connect the dots – to go on a meaningful cycling adventure with a much bigger purpose. I decided to challenge myself to a 400km cycle from my home in Singapore to Kuala Lumpur. I know it was not going to be easy so I shared my vision with friends and colleagues around – I wanted to garner as much support as possible for a seemly uphill ride of my life.

What started off a personal journey led to a charitable focus as more than a handful of colleagues from the region showed interest for the challenge. People said to me “I’ll do it too”, and that’s how 18 people took part in the 400km ride. We rode for three days, raising S$120,000 for Singapore charity, Child at Street 11, which supports children from underprivileged families.

We enjoyed it so much, there was no turning back then. We’re into our third year this year, and hopefully for many more ahead.

AA: Why and how did you select the Cambodia Charity Ride for 2017?

MR: The charity that we are supporting this year is M’Lop Tapang, which is based in Sihanoukille. It’s chosen by Edrington staff who were moved by their personal experience at the shelter. There’s a big tree right beside the shelter and it is quite symbolic really, because what M’Lop Tapang does is provide a safe haven for vulnerable children and support to those at risk of abuse.

Earlier this year in April, I went ahead to test the route myself and it was brutal – the terrain was challenging, and temperatures hovered around 38 degrees. Thankfully, conditions were better in during the actual ride, where 50 staff members cycled more than 600km from Siem Reap in the North of Cambodia to Sihanouville in the South.

Edrington

AA: How and why did you get into cycling as a sport?

MR: There is so much to love about cycling. It is relatively easy and breezy to pick up. It’s a great form of exercise that works out not just your legs, but cardiovascular functions too. I love the freedom it gives me, the opportunity to explore new places; it’s pure indulgence for me.

To me, cycling is as much a solo sport as it is a group activity. I can generally go at my own pace but the support of the team keeps you going even when you are mentally and physically exhausted. It’s about going the distance, not a matter of how fast you get to your destination, but more about getting there eventually.

AA: How has cycling changed your perspective about health and fitness?

MR: Health and fitness should not be a chore. Many people tend to start paying attention to their health and well-being only after being faced by a health-related scare. I strongly advocate people to regard fitness as a form of lifestyle and to inculcate healthy-living in their everyday lives. This is also the reason I choose to cycle 14km from my home in Bukit Timah to our office in Asia Square every day, and back the same way.

It is great to know that my personal health drive has resulted in a massive endeavour involving multi-day cycle rides that has to date spanned three years, involved hundreds of people and raised millions of dollars. Keeping up with health and fitness is a very personal discipline and responsibility, but why not make it meaningful and worthwhile while we’re at it?

AA:  How has the project changed your thinking about charity, about supporting causes?

MR: Subtlety is key when it comes to charity and supporting causes. I avoid global international charities with enormous structures which are very well funded. I ask myself whether the cause makes a difference, and does it change lives. It is also important to lead by example, to inspire others. I challenge the team to bring to surface things that may not be so obvious to people who are not immediately faced with needs. We should not be afraid to look into issues which are heavier and contentious, these are some very real subjects that need to be addressed.

AA: Edrington is a firm believer in giving back to communities. How did this come about? Has it been difficult rallying support for the causes within the company or with partners?

MR: Edrington has always had social responsibility at its core. Our ownership model is unique in that it is owned by the Robertson Trust, which is Scotland’s leading independent funder of charitable causes. This charitable ethos has driven us to continue contributing to the wellbeing of the communities in which we operate.

Every employee who joins Edrington knows that he or she is empowered to take real ownership and responsibilities for their communities. In our different markets, colleagues identify causes and actions they feel passionate about and we empower them to make a difference. There is little difficulty in rallying support. Over the years, the breadth of activities covered has been truly impressive, going from environmental, to educational and broader social causes.

On my part, I’ve also been eager to promote cooperation among our different country offices, to inspire a real sense of belonging to not only our internal corporate community, but a regional and even global one.

AA: How has the company improved as a result of giving back?

MR: Doing good and giving back formed a large part of Edrington’s founding principles.

Today, some of our brands have charitable causes of their own. Snow Leopard Vodka contributes 15 percent of profits to snow leopard conservation and the group still puts 100 percent of its dividends into the Robertson Trust Fund. A recent auction of The Macallan’s Legacy Collection in Hong Kong achieved an exceptional record of US$993,000; the charities which received funding from the proceeds of the auctions include those which benefit disadvantaged people in Hong Kong and throughout Asia, by supporting them with food needs, skills to help them back into employment and media requirements.

It is great to see the various brands coming together to do their part in giving back. It strengthens the fundamentals of our beliefs and drives home the point of having charity at our core. Edrington is a company that has lasted and will last for a long time. We have a legacy to carry on and we are aware that the decisions we make today will have an influence in 20 to 30 years. We are standing on the shoulders of giants before us, so when it’s our moment, we have to do the best we can.

AA:  Any thoughts for fellow cyclists who want to participate, build their own means of giving back/paying it forward?

MR: If you really want to pay it forward, find a charitable initiative that means something to you – it has to be something you really feel for. At the end of it, even despite all the pain and challenges, you know you’ve made a difference.

We’re always happy to welcome new participants for our epic ride, people who believe in the cause and want to contribute. One thing is for sure – we were all taken aback by how much we enjoyed the ride – not just the cycling, but coming together as a group. It is non-hierarchical: no matter what level you are in the organisation or where you came from, we’re all the same on a bike.

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