High West Meets American Prairie

Executive Summary

Many of America’s rare and important biomes are protected in National Parks or other conserved areas, but grasslands in the US remain largely unprotected. Temperate grasslands are one of the most at risk biomes and the US possesses one of only four left in the world. This paper examines the partnership between American Prairie Reserve, a nonprofit organization working to permanently protect the American grassland biome, and High West, a Utah-based distillery interested in preserving the West’s natural heritage for the next generation.

The authors interviewed founders, board members, and employees of both organizations to get a firsthand account of how the partnership between High West and American Prairie Reserve became successful. The paper examines key aspects of the partnership and how each organization ensured that the collaboration aligned with their goals and priorities. The paper then provides recommendations to other organizations looking to implement a similar for-profit/non-profit partnership.

High West partnered with APR in 2012 to create a specialty bourbon with the American Prairie Reserve story on its label. Ten percent of the proceeds from sales of the bourbon are donated to APR, which is working to conserve 3 million acres of grassland in central Montana. The agreement lasted through an ownership transfer of High West and has helped both organizations increase their outreach. Key elements of success were:

  • Securing a legal agreement that formalizes the 10% donation of proceeds
  • Choosing a partner organization that shares similar goals and values
  • Aligning actions with marketing to build trust with consumers
  • Finding areas of mutual benefit (brand association, outreach opportunities)

The collaboration between High West and APR provides an example of an innovative partnership that leverages shared values and culture to benefit both organizations and help preserve an at-risk ecosystem. Interviews with employees and board members provide insight on essential considerations organizations must make when partnering across the for-profit/non-profit divide.

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