Chris Darwin with son Ras at the Charles Darwin Reserve in WA. Chris helped create the reserve, which is named in honour of his great-great-grandfather. Photo credit: Annette Ruzicka, Bush Heritage Australia.

Chris Darwin with son Ras at the Charles Darwin Reserve in WA. Chris helped create the reserve, which is named in honour of his great-great-grandfather. Credit: Annette Ruzicka, Bush Heritage Australia.

Saving the Planet One Meal at a Time

What do you do when your conservation efforts inadvertently create another problem? Keep going, give up, or come up with a creative solution?

For Chris Darwin, it was the latter. When he realised that his creation of nature reserves was leading to other unintended consequences, such as displacing agricultural land, he looked for a different way to tackle global environmental issues.

The result was The Darwin Challenge, an app that allows people to log their meat-free days and see the effects on the environment and their health. Chris' idea was that reducing demand for meat would reduce the demand for grain (about one-third of the world's grain is fed to livestock), saving land, water, money and improving human health.

Inspired by, and named in honour of, Chris' great-great-grandfather Charles Darwin, the app was launched in June 2017. Chris said the app's tangible impact is measured through meat-free days (MFDs). His aim was to get 3000 MFDs within three months of launching, but he had 22,000 by that date and, at last count, the app had registered 35,000 MFDs.

We worked with Chris to help set up The Darwin Challenge with a sound legal foundation. Our work included advice on how to incorporate and structure the company, ensure compliance with directors' duties, and put in place best practice privacy and data governance practices.

We also drafted and negotiated agreements with app designers, developers and illustrators who were based around the world, in a way that protected the company while supporting the creative minds and artists who generously donated or offered discounted services.

'Of course my family lineage has influenced me hugely,' Chris said. 'It's like winning a lottery you don't even enter. Charles was the inspiration for this app.

'Making our world a better place is easier than you think. If you start with small adjustments in your everyday life, we can make a big difference to ourselves, to others and to the planet.'

The app was a good example of global collaboration. People who worked on this project were based in Australia, England, Finland, Romania and the US.

'It was incredible to have so many people around the world working on this project,' Chris said. 'We live in a world where we have to cooperate, so the more we can work together and collaborate, the more we will realise we are much the same no matter where we are.'

Laura Bereicua, an Associate in our Sydney office, worked with Chris on the project.

'All of the legal work concerned Australian law, but the cross-border arrangements meant we had to engage in discussions with project members around the world, which added time and complexity,' said Laura.

'Because the company was in its infancy, we really became a trusted business adviser, as well as a legal adviser. It was a fantastic opportunity to get close to the client. This allowed us to share our knowledge and make sure they had the fundamentals right so they're in a good position to grow.

'It was also great for me personally because I’m a vegetarian and believe in making sustainable food choices, so I enjoyed being able to combine both my professional and personal interests to help The Darwin Challenge and the planet.'

Chris, who also attended our Accelerate bootcamp that helps start-ups navigate the challenges and opportunities they face, said our guidance had helped set up The Darwin Challenge for future growth.

'People think new products are all about having a great idea. But the good idea is 10 per cent and the other 90 per cent is managing the idea. You can have a great idea and fail, or a mediocre idea and succeed, based on whether you have good management in place. Allens really helped us and we wouldn't exist without them.'

Impact logo