Diageo improves water efficiency despite production increase

Beverage company Diageo has improved water efficiency throughout its operations by 1.5% and reduced the volume of water wasted in water-stressed locations by 7%, according to the company's 2013 sustainability report.

In addition, the producer of Guinness and Smirnoff reported a 4% reduction of absolute water withdrawals, which equates to 994,000 cubic metres.

However, total water use increased by 6% in 2013, largely due to an increase in production and the integration of newly acquired businesses in Turkey and India.

The company’s progress has moved it a step closer to its water efficiency improvement target of 30% by 2015.

“We are currently on schedule, having made improvements of 19.5% since 2007, with 1.5% improvements in the last year. We are confident that we will meet our 2015 target, although we know that efficiencies will become progressively harder to deliver,” the company states.

“We reduced the absolute volume of water we use by nearly 1 million cubic metres this year. These reductions come despite increases in our overall production volume, and in particular increases in distilling, which is the most water-intensive part of our production,” it added.

The report also shows that operations in Africa achieved the 2015 target of improving water efficiency by 30% two years ahead of schedule.

Across its operations, and particularly in Africa, Diageo has improved the efficiency of its brewing operations through a combination of “continuous improvement” and operational efficiency projects which conserve and reuse water from packaging lines, vacuum pumps, and the brewing process.

Former Diageo CEO, Paul Walsh, who was commenting on the report before his successor Ivan Mendez took over in July, said: “[Water] is another key element of our strategy, and I am delighted to see developments in water efficiency at many of our sites in addition to a 21% reduction in water wasted at water-stressed sites since 2007. I am also encouraged by innovations such as the new, less water-intensive, cassava-based beer that we launched in Ghana”.

Speaking on the significance of water efficiency throughout its operations, current CEO Ivan Mendez added: “Given the importance of water to our business and our stakeholders, we will further drive our efforts to protect water resources as well as improve access to clean water in the local communities that need it most”.

For more on Diageo’s environmental initiatives read ‘In conversation with Diageo’s head of environment Michael Alexander’.

Leigh Stringer

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