Diageo celebrates sustainability & responsibility achievements

Over 99.5% of packaging now recyclable

Greenhouse gas emissions halved across our own business (50% absolute reduction). Photo - Diageo

Diageo, the maker of Johnnie Walker, Smirnoff, and Guinness, has celebrated the conclusion of its highly ambitious 2020 Sustainability and Responsibility Goals. Originally set in 2008, and refreshed in 2015, the goals were among the most ambitious and stretching in the industry, the company said in a press release. Diageo was among the first companies to set its greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets in line with the principles of the science-based targets initiative and an early adopter of absolute, rather than relative, GHG reduction targets.

On water stewardship, in 2019, Diageo was appointed a Global Goals Business Avenger as the business champion for UN Sustainable Development Goal 6 – “Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all”. This financial year, Diageo has replenished 1,400,000m3 of water, the equivalent of 560 Olympic sized swimming pools, in water-stressed areas.

Ewan Andrew, chief sustainability officer, said, “As we close our 2020 targets, we are incredibly proud of the progress we have made and grateful to our employees and selected partners who have helped us deliver transformational progress. Through our programs, we have made a positive impact on millions of people, in communities all around the world. We have been agile and moved quickly to adapt to the global changes around us. We are excited about the decade of action ahead and will continue to lead the way, driven by the knowledge that our future success is intertwined with the success of the living planet around us.”

Diageo’s focus areas for sustainability

The 2020 targets were selected to align with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and designed to cover Diageo’s three main focus areas – reducing environmental impact, building thriving communities, and promoting positive drinking.

The company’s targets include cutting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from direct operations by 509,000 metric tons and delivering its commitment to reduce absolute emissions by 50%. Reducing emissions by over a third (33.7%) across its entire value chain, going beyond its original 30% target. In water-stressed areas, replenished 100% of the water used in our final product.

The company ensured that over 99.5% of its packaging is recyclable and achieved 45% recycled content in its packaging. It has achieved zero waste to landfill in all operational sites and offices and supported more than 250,000 people through its projects focused on clean water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) in 2020. Empowered 435,000 women to date through its community programs. Championed diversity such that 39% of leadership positions are now held by women, going beyond its original target of 35%.

According to the press release, Diageo has also long supported the World Health Organization’s goal of reducing harmful drinking by 10% across the world by 2025. It has set itself stretching targets to reach in this area over the next five years. So far, it has reached over 229 million people with moderation messages via its brands and helped educate 1 million young people, parents, and teachers about the dangers of underage drinking.

Despite this significant progress, however, Diageo has not quite achieved all its ambitious goals. However, Diageo delivered a 46.3% improvement in water use efficiency against a target of 50%, only missing the goal due to delayed water recycling projects in Africa and lower packaged volumes in some markets as a direct result of Covid-19 impacts. It has also found reducing the overall weight of its packaging by 15% more challenging than expected, still delivering 11% reduction with the starting point on lightweight glass making it a tough challenge.

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

It is the right time to support our high-impact reporting and authoritative and technical information with some of the best correspondents in the industry. Readers can power Packaging South Asia’s balanced industry journalism and help sustain us by subscribing.

– Naresh Khanna

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