Diageo Takes the Lead in Sustainability

Jun. 18, 2018

The modern world of spirits is built upon the foresight of earlier generations of distillers—those who cultivated new strains of fruits and grains, found and protected sources of pure water and built the brands that became icons. The work of those who came before makes it possible for today’s distillers to keep crafting spirits, and our partners at Diageo recognize the responsibility they have to protect that tradition for future generations. 

The company is currently working towards aggressive sustainability goals in three key areas:
Leadership in alcohol in society
Building thriving communities
Reducing environmental impact

As part of a comprehensive “2020 Sustainability Plan,” Diageo is working worldwide to meet and exceed the benchmarks they have set for themselves, which the company says “are aligned with the emerging UN Sustainable Development Goals – to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all.” Understanding these goals, and the progress made towards them, will help businesses to better educate consumers about how they can support brands which are aligned with their own values.

Leadership in Alcohol in Society

With flagship brands like Smirnoff, CIROC, Captain Morgan, Crown Royal, Johnnie Walker, and many more, Diageo is already in a leadership position within the industry. As an industry leader, Diageo is using its position to address underage drinking, drunk driving, fetal alcohol syndrome and alcohol abuse. According to Diageo’s own website, the “goal is to create a positive role for alcohol in society through initiatives that reduce misuse and promote a balanced lifestyle.”

To that end, Diageo has deployed a number of interactive programs, such as DRINKiQ, a free, online course that provides clear, straightforward information about alcohol and its effects, as well as other courses such as Diageo Bar Academy, Learning for Life and Plan W, which encourage participants to “champion responsible drinking.” In 2016, shortly after the 2020 Sustainability Plan was announced, Diageo released a virtual reality experience, Decisions, which allows viewers to viscerally experience a drunk driving accident from multiple perspectives. 

Visit the Diageo website to read about their international programs and case studies detailing how their work is already benefiting communities around the world.

Building Thriving Communities

Diageo’s spirits are made all over the world, from the misty shores of Scotland, to Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail, to the highlands of Jalisco and beyond. Its products and people touch many diverse communities, and the company is working to improve them on global and local levels, as well as within the company itself. To that end, Diageo has created a Social Impact Framework to assess and measure their footprint within specific communities and to gauge the effectiveness of their programs, as well as an exhaustive human rights impact assessment (HRIA) to study the company’s entire value chain from source to point of sale. The company has already conducted detailed HRIAs in key areas, such as Kenya, Brazil, Mexico and Uganda.

Globally, Diageo is committed to building sustainable supply chains, with specific goals such as locally sourcing 80% of the agricultural raw materials used in the company’s African operations by 2020. Currently, Diageo sources 73% of those materials locally. Worldwide, the company is establishing partnerships with local farmers and communities to create sustainable sources for key raw materials and agricultural products, and obtaining commitments from suppliers to protect human rights for workers and improve working conditions throughout the world. Diageo developed their Sustainable Agriculture Strategy to serve as a framework for encouraging and measuring progress toward their sustainability goals in conjunction with their partner farmers.

The company is also working to improve opportunities for growth in the communities where they operate, working to address capability gaps and improve access to clean water. For example, the Water of Life program has provided access to safe water for and sanitation for more than 10 million people. Among them are the people of Tom, Cameroon:

Diageo is particularly invested in providing access to skills training and resources for women, to empower them to build their own future through the Plan W, which has already provided support to over 262,000 women, and an additional 115,000 young people have been served by the Learning for Life initiative. See Plan W in action, helping the women of Ahmedabad, India, back in 2015:

Internally, Diageo is committed to fostering a diverse workforce and leadership. Currently, 28% of leadership roles in the company are held by women. That number is even higher in the executive leadership and board, with 47% and 42% of the positions held by women, respectively. Diageo is also heavily engaged in fostering the professional development of women throughout the company. In addition to workforce diversity, Diageo is working toward “making Zero Harm a reality” for their many factory, warehouse, and delivery personnel. The company has set an ambitious goal for reduction in Lost Time Accident rates, moving from the current level of 1.44 LTAs per 1,000 employees to less than 1 LTA rate per 1,000 employees and no fatalities.

See more details at Diageo’s website on progress toward their goals for communities, supply chains and people.

Reducing Environmental Impact

As a spirits company, Diageo is clearly invested in protecting and preserving water around the world. The 2020 sustainability plan sets lofty goals for reducing carbon emissions, eliminating landfill waste, improving the recyclability of the packaging for its brands.

Water is life, and Diageo recognizes the importance of it to their operations. The company’s major goal for water is to improve water efficiency by 50%, while safely returning 100% of all wastewater back to the environment. Through the Diageo Water Blueprint and Water of Life programs, they have already improved water efficiency by 12.5% since 2015 while reducing waste water pollution by 37.7%. In addition, Diageo has engaged 40 of their largest suppliers on their own water management practices in a bid to bring about similar changes throughout the supply chain.

To address the company’s role in carbon production, Diageo has set a goal of reducing their carbon production from direct operations by half, and by 30% from their extended supply chain, while adopting HFC-free refrigeration for all new refrigeration equipment. So far, 99% of their new fridges are HFC-free, and absolute carbon emissions are down by 36.2% since 2007, marking a major reduction. Diageo has made these gains through improved energy efficiency in their operations, investing in renewable energy production at their sites, finding sources for renewable and reduced-carbon energy, and working with partners throughout the supply chain to make similar moves.

Aiding in carbon reduction is the reduced weight of product packaging, which the company reports is down by 8% since 2009, against a goal of 15% by 2020. The company also plans to increase the amount of recycled content in packaging by 45% while ensuring that 100% of packaging is recyclable and/or reusable. As part of that goal, the company is seeking to find sustainable sourcing for all paper and wood products so as to ensure their operations result in zero net deforestation. So far, Diageo has managed to increase the recycled content in their packaging by 40% since 2009, and improved recyclability by 98.7%.

Perhaps the most audacious goal set by the company is to reduce their landfill waste by 100%. Achieving zero landfill waste will require a multi-pronged strategy. First, the company will eliminate physical materials whenever and wherever possible, finding agricultural uses for waste products, recycling and reusing all packaging. The work is paying off, as landfill waste is down by 41.4% compared to 2015 and by 90.1% from 2007.

Visit Diageo’s website to learn more about their initiatives for water, carbon, packaging, and waste.

Foresight is 2020

Sustainability is key to growth, and we are thankful for our partnership with Diageo in part because they recognize the importance of sustainable business practices. For the good of our companies, communities and our shared planet, we applaud Diageo for their foresight and commitment, and we proudly bring their brands to businesses throughout North America. Talk to your Breakthru Sales Consultant about the Diageo portfolio, how it can help grow your business and how you can share the company’s vision for the future with your customers.
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