The announcement coincided with the publication of the company’s 2014 annual report, which revealed improved performance across all eight of its environmental targets since 2013, including decreasing water wasted at its 23 water-stressed sites by 12% in the past year.

Diageo has reduced absolute water use by 9% (2,268,000 cubic metres) while water efficiency improved by 2.4% compared to the prior year. While some savings were the result of major investment, most stemmed from operational improvements related to equipment, processes, culture and behaviour.

For example, at the company’s distillery at Valleyfield, Canada, water use has reduced by 44% through investment in surface condensers. In Nairobi, where three of Diageo’s sites are in water-stressed locations, brewing, malting and glass production facilities have reduced the absolute volume of water withdrawn by 23%.

Water used for irrigation purposes on land under Diageo’s operational control now extends to 7,512,000 cubic metres and is reported separately from direct operations water use efficiency performance.

The significant majority of this irrigation water relates to sugar cane production at the Ypióca business in Brazil, where Diageo is investing in improving irrigation techniques and broader water stewardship improvements.

The company is also aiming to reduce the polluting power of wastewater, measured in biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) grams per litre of product packaged. Overall BOD has been reduced by 4%, with a 56% improvement at sites in Africa as a result of better wastewater treatment facilities and operation.

A significant proportion of Diageo’s BOD in wastewater comes from its Cameronbridge distillery in Scotland, where it has built a new bioenergy plant to generate renewable energy from co-products while also reducing BOD load. This facility, once fully commissioned, should significantly reduce BOD load to the environment in future years.

Alongside water stewardship, Diageo’s environmental programme focuses on reducing carbon emissions, zero waste to landfill and packaging sustainability.

This year Diageo’s net carbon emissions (CO2e) were reduced by 5% in absolute terms (35,000 tonnes) compared to the previous year. Cumulatively the company has reduced absolute net tonnes of CO2e by 30% since 2007.

In 2014, waste to landfill was cut by 23% compared to the prior year. One of the key drivers was progress made by Diageo’s sites in Nigeria, where the business has scaled up an initiative started in 2012 to reuse brewing by-products previously sent to landfill for animal feed and fertiliser applications.

On the sustainable packaging front, the company has engaged in various initiatives including lightweighting, removing materials that cannot be recycled or are difficult to recycle such as PVC, foil, and mixed plastics, and removing materials such as inks and heavy metals that may pose a risk to the environment.

Maxine Perella

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