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By 2020, We Aim To Make 100 Percent Of Our Packaging Recyclable: David Croft, Global Sustainability Director, Diageo

"While various corporates have been contributing their bit towards SDGs, constructive, collaborative, and results-driven action across the industry is critically important to formulate, execute, and realize systemic change," says David Croft, Global Sustainability Director, Diageo


As we progress towards 2030, the target for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, it is integral that corporates contribute as well in integrating sustainability and achieving the SDGs. In an exclusive interview with BW Businessworld, David Croft, Global Sustainability Director, Diageo discusses how sustainability is incorporated into their corporate strategy. Edited excerpts:

How can corporates and businesses integrate the achievement of the SDGs in their strategy? How is Diageo working towards the SDGs?

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), otherwise known as the Global Goals, are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. The 17 goals are interconnected – often the key to success of one will involve tackling issues more commonly associated with another.

While various corporates have been contributing their bit towards SDGs, constructive, collaborative, and results-driven action across the industry is critically important to formulate, execute, and realize systemic change. At Diageo, each of our goals connects to different SDGs and as we deliver on our targets through various programmes, we are ensuring that every activity we initiate contributes towards achieving that goal. We are focusing on the impact  created, measuring this through our Social Impact Framework, detailed studies such as those on smallholder farming in Africa which show how we improve farmer livelihoods tackling poverty (Goal 1), or some soon to be published new detail on the challenges’ for women in agriculture helping gender equality (Goal 5). Equally, our work on the environment is helping to tackle climate change and support water resources (Goals 13 and 6). It is also about the work that some of our key bands are doing. For example, the work Smirnoff is doing to encourage a more inclusive society and a specific focus on equality for women (Goals 10 and 5). These achievements give us confidence in the contribution we are able to make to the SDGs – they may even hold opportunities for the future too. In helping deliver them, we are strengthening society for the future, enabling the communities where we work to thrive and equally therefore supporting our own future. As a business with brands that go back in some case for more than 300 years, considering how we maintain and develop that for future is very important to us.

How is Water stewardship one of the most material aspects of Diageo’s environmental strategy? What is the “Water of Life” programme?

As an alcoholic beverage company, we are dependent upon water directly for our products and also for the agricultural crops that are the key ingredients we use. Hence, safeguarding water supplies now and in the future is critical to us and our operations. To ensure this, we have designed a Water Blueprint strategy which takes a holistic approach and considers how we work with different stakeholders to support future water resources for us all. We aim to improve our water efficiency by 50% by 2020, reducing the water we use in making our drinks. We’ve already achieved a 40% improvement, which is a good start but we know we have more to do. We also recognise that water stress is a local issue and in 2015 we had committed to replenish the water we use in any water stressed areas. Again we are making good progress with this, almost 45% in the first 2 years of our programmes and with India, where there is significant water stress in some states, leading the way. This is also part of how we see ourselves in local communities and links to the work we do to develop and maintain community water and sanitation. Our Water of Life programme has enabled around 12 Million people, increasingly gaining momentum in India and providing access to safe water and sanitation. We deliver our programmes through partners like WaterAid and Water Health International. This enables us to think about how we spread our approach, through advocacy and working across water catchments to support sustainable water at scale for all of those dependent on the catchment. This has meant significant collaboration in countries such as Kenya and Tanzania working with governments, communities, NGOs and other companies to support the catchment for the future.

What role does Diageo play in delivering regenerative agriculture at scale? How are the social and environmental dimensions addressed through this? How does it impact factors like gender, livelihood and soil quality?

We see the need to consider the socio-economic and environmental factors as part of our work on regenerative agriculture. They are critical in delivering changes that will not only support agriculture but will also benefit us in terms of food security, environmental benefits or livelihoods. We have prioritised key crops around the world that we are working on to progressively embed sustainable agriculture practice. We also consider the role that agriculture has for communities in our values chains, how it generates livelihoods and support the community and what areas could be developed to strengthen these. By improving productivity through better agronomy, we are able to strengthen the environmental sustainability of farming while also adding to the farmers’ livelihoods and improving the resilience of our own supply network. Our work in Africa has demonstrated that we can help farmers improve their productivity by up to 200%. Our new research with CARE international has also highlighted measures we can take to help women in farming communities. We are now exploring new opportunities for programmes on this that may lead to diversified farm incomes and certainly empower women in rural communities. Through our PlanW programme in India and our Model Villages work here, we have a history enabling women’s economic empowerment in many areas, and that programme has helped more than 300,000 women across Asia achieve their potential.

What are the sustainable packaging methods practiced by Diageo? What are its commitments towards sustainable packaging?

Since Alexander Walker designed a square bottle for his whisky that meant it could be shipped more safely and in less space, Diageo has been working to reduce packaging materials. Our Sustainable packaging commitments refreshed in 2016, are used by brands and technical teams as well as suppliers and support our ongoing programmes to produce packaging with lower environmental impact. This provides us with a framework for establishing sustainable packaging standards in our supply chain. They include specific design principles and state that our packaging should, where possible, be made with sustainable materials.

Our 2020 target is to reduce packaging by 15% while increasing the recycled content and make 100% of our packaging recyclable. We have reduced packaging by almost 10%, while the recycled content overall stands at 41% and our packaging is almost 99% recyclable. Glass makes up a significant proportion of our packaging weight and, while we have reduced the weight of glass we use over all, we also work with our suppliers and other partners to improve recycled content. We also recognise that new materials are constantly appearing, with different issue and last year we developed new guidelines to consider plastics we use, to ensure they are recyclable for example. This also extends to avoiding the use of plastic straws as we consider how we market our drinks and how people enjoy them all over the world.

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