Good or Bad? Alcohol Companies and Sustainability

Alcohol makers set fewer sustainability goals according to an article in Environmental Leader. The article says that alcoholic beverages producers have ‘fewer public sustainability goals’ than companies in many other industries: A review of goals set by the 11 top beer, wine and spirits companies on the Forbes Global 2000 list found that all have between two and five public sustainability goals compared to most of the other companies studied that had an average of five specific sustainability goals. Not surprisingly, water-use targets seem as important to beverage companies as greenhouse gas goals. In defense of the findings, Green Research founder and principal analyst David Schatsky points out: “Just because a company has not announced a specific goal for a particular sustainability issue, doesn’t mean that it’s not working on, talking about and making progress on that issue.”

Nonetheless, it it a bit disturbing. Especially when considered along side the EL article “Research: Cut Alcohol Consumption to Help Reduce Climate Change” which says:

The alcohol beverage industry is responsible for at least 1.5 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK through creating the drinks and the use of energy in pubs, clubs and restaurants, according to the UK’s Food Climate Research Network, Life Style Extra reports.

Although a bit sad, I’m not terribly surprised that largest beer, wine and spirits companies are not great on sustainability. The fact is that most don’t want to absorb the extra costs of implementing sustainability practices. Yet, these practices actually correlate to higher quality wine.

The fact remains that if you’re interested in supporting sustainability-minded businesses it makes sense to support smaller producers, many of which are on top on sustainability. Small producers embrace sustainable practices because it not only reduces waste and saves money, but also because it improves the quality of their products. One can only wonder what a review of 1,000 small producers would have uncovered?  I can only imagine it would have been more favorable.

Photo: TwoMile Wine













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1 thought on “Good or Bad? Alcohol Companies and Sustainability”

  1. Hi Jennifer,

    Thanks for covering our research. There’s actually been a lot of interest in it on the part of the beer, wine and spirit makers.

    As you note, we did not assess the environmental performance of these companies, just which goals they have elected to commit to publicly. Since goals drive behavior and communicate intent, we believe it’s a powerful practice to set public sustainability goals. But we do not intend to characterize these companies as poor performers.

    As you say, it would be interesting to assess the smaller producers as well. It’s worth considering, that the large companies have the resources to invest in new processes and energy efficient technologies that smaller companies may not. And they may be able to achieve economies of scale not available to smaller companies. I don’t have the data on it, but it’s not hard to imagine a situation in which a large producer could have a lower impact per liter of beverage than a smaller one.

    All good stuff for future research.

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