Diageo commits to net-zero carbon by 2030

Drinks giant sets out industry leading ambitions to meet UN sustainable development goals

Diageo has announced it will achieve net-zero carbon emissions in its direct operations by 2030. Photograph: Dara MacDonaill

Diageo has announced its intention to achieve net-zero carbon emissions in its direct operations globally by 2030. It has also set out 25 commitments to help meet UN sustainable development goals by the end of the decade – including the promotion of moderate alcohol consumption.

Both the emissions targets and extent of commitment to the sustainable development goals are among the most ambitious being adopted by large multinational companies, and are particularly challenging being in the drinks business.

Among the Guinness owner’s targets are using 30 per cent less water in every drink it makes and increasing representation among its leaders for people from ethnically diverse backgrounds to 45 per cent, and for women to 50 per cent by the end of the decade.

The announcement on Monday will have major implications for the Guinness and Baileys brands, which are made in Ireland, as their operations become net-carbon neutral.


Greenhouse gases

The company said it would work in collaboration with Irish farmers and suppliers to halve their indirect greenhouse gas by 2030, while all packaging will be 100 per cent reusable, recyclable or compostable.

The 25 of “ambitious goals” in Diageo’s Society 2030: Spirit of Progress plan focus on aligning with the sustainable development goals in promoting positive drinking by reaching one billion people “with messages of moderation through its brands”, championing inclusion and diversity, and pioneering “grain-to-glass sustainability”.

In Ireland, the Guinness and Baileys brands will lead implementation of the 2030 emissions targets, it added. Diageo Ireland also announced in September that the proposed Guinness Quarter development at St James’s Gate aims to be Dublin’s first carbon-neutral district.

“As a global business, we are committed to playing our part to protect the future of our planet and to leading the way for others to follow,” Diageo’s European president John Kennedy told The Irish Times.

“Across our Irish operations, we have already demonstrated our commitment to sustainability with a massive focus on reducing our environmental footprint across carbon, water and waste,” Mr Kennedy said.

A 32 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions and halving water usage at St James’s Gate, Dublin had been achieved, he said, while at its Baileys operation on Nangor Road, 100 per cent electricity use is renewable.

Mr Kennedy said the coming decade was a critical one for Diageo to meet science-based actions to help curb global temperature rise.

“We are aiming to lead, and have done so over the last number of years,” he said. This was reflected in Diageo being the only alcoholic drinks company in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index.

While plans for every step to climate neutrality might not be laid out yet, he said, having very demanding targets would force the company to change thinking, drive innovation and produce “breakthrough technologies to allow us meet those kind of numbers”.

On promoting positive drinking, Diageo said it would “change the attitudes of five million drivers towards drink driving; and educate more than 10 million people on the dangers of drinking underage through “Smashed”, its alcohol education awareness programme, now operating in every continent.

“The only prosperous future for Diageo is based on societies where alcohol consumption is done responsibly,” Mr Kennedy said. He said there had been a generational shift in many countries where moderation was now the norm. “That is where we want to go...drinking better; not drinking more. We don’t feel those objectives are in conflict.”

Gender equality

On measuring success in achieving better gender equality, he said they applied respected indicators, notably the Equileap Scorecard which evaluates over 3,000 companies globally. Having achieved a 39 per cent figure recently, this was “years ahead of what we thought were stretching targets at the time”.

“By setting both gender and ethnicity goals for the business to achieve by 2030, I believe we can truly break down barriers and help shape a more diverse and successful long-term business and society,” Mr Kennedy said.

Pioneering thinking had gone into defining ethnic diversity but, given the company had at its core “an inclusive, diverse culture”, this was not “an add-on”.

On pursuing “grain-to-glass sustainability”, he said harnessing 100 per cent renewable energy and water efficiency were central parts of the transition. This would build on tangible progress already undertaken – half the amount of water is used to make Guinness compared to 2007 while all waste was reduced, reused, recycled or recovered at St. James’s Gate and the Baileys plant.

By 2030, in water-stressed locations where Diageo is based, it would replenishing more than its uses, he said. “It will also deliver over 150 community water projects across the world, including providing access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene; and will support over 150,000 smallholder farmers with farming techniques to regenerate the land and build biodiversity”.

It has launched a global platform that will provide non-equity funding to start-up and technology companies to develop and help Diageo embed sustainability in its supply chain and brands.

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times