Pernod Ricard is on a mission to become a more sustainable drinks company

Written by: Jo Gallacher | Published:
Pernod Ricard launched its roadmap with a live event broadcast globally

In UK culture, alcohol is rarely linked with responsibility.

Instead, we associate it with binge-drinking students, messy wedding stories and questionable morals. Hoping to shake up this perception is global drinks manufacturer Pernod Ricard, which produces some of the most prolific brands.

From the coming-of-age Malibu and coke, to a glass of Campo Viejo with dinner and Martell Cognac to round up the evening, Pernod Ricard’s portfolio is far-reaching. Not to mention Absolut Vodka, Beefeater and Plymouth gin, Jameson whiskey and Perrier-Jouët Champagne.

And with great power comes great responsibility. Considering the quantity of products put on the market, and their global outreach, it’s vital that the drinks company acts sustainably. A growing pressure on brands to be doing the ‘right thing’ meant it was therefore perfect timing then when last month Pernod Ricard launched its 2030 Sustainability & Responsibility Roadmap at the Martell distillery in Cognac.

The strategy established eight targets supporting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to address both environmental and social responsibility.

The roadmap focuses on four key areas: nurturing terroir (the ground that products come from); valuing people; circular making; and responsible hosting. As a global brand with a vast portfolio, Pernod Ricard has an obligation to nurture every part of its supply chain and is one of many brands banking on social responsibility to facilitate growth over the next few years. But the group’s commitment to reducing waste is no new feat.

In 1966, founder Paul Ricard began the Paul Ricard Oceanographic Institute to focus on ocean preservation and prevent plastic pollution. In 2003, it joined the United Nations Global Compact which encourages businesses to adopt sustainable and socially responsible policies.

2019 is therefore perhaps a little late to be releasing a sustainability roadmap, yet since 2010 the group has reduced its carbon dioxide emissions by 30% per unit of production and waste to landfill from 10,253 to 748 tons. Last year, it joined the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy to reduce the overall impact of its 17 strategic international brands.

New systems

The roadmap is therefore simply the next step in Pernod Ricard’s sustainable journey, so what exactly does it set out to achieve? A key component will be the group’s commitment to make all of its packaging recyclable, compostable, reusable or bio-based by 2025, echoing the promises of many major corporations. It will also pilot five new circular ways of distributing wine and spirits and will help to increase recycling rates in its top 10 largest markets with low recycling levels.

Carine Christophe, group environmental manager, says the group looked at more than 25 different circular economy systems for its products before whittling them down to five pilots. These include reuse projects in restaurants and a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) in certain markets.

Approximately 43% of its bottles are currently made from recycled content, yet Pernod Ricard hopes to improve this rate over the coming years. This should be an achievable aim, given that a large percentage of its products are packaged in glass.

Vanessa Wright, vice-president of sustainability and responsibility at Pernod Ricard, says: “As consumers, we have got used to production usage and wastage and now we want to make sure there’s no such thing as waste. We live in a world of finite resources, so how can we reimagine how we are doing things so we give back?”

By 2025, Pernod Ricard will ban all promotional items made from single-use plastics and train 10,000 bartenders to host consumers in a more sustainable way, including being anti-waste and plastic-free.

In certain markets, and importantly not all markets, progress in recycling and renewable practices is already happening. Its Absolut vodka distillery in Åhus, Sweden has introduced a series of practices to move towards circular production and minimise waste.

Now, 99% of its by-products are recycled to create animal feed and biogas. Similarly, the Plymouth gin distillery is powered by 100% renewable hydropower and food waste is turned into sustainable energy.

Spreading the message

Cleaning up the supply chain is a huge step forward, but the sustainability message also needs to be filtered and distilled to the consumer. Pernod Ricard has therefore teamed up with anti-waste organisations such as Trash Collective to prove sustainability does not exist exclusively to ‘eco-warriors’ but can instead be part of everyday life.

Trash Collective spreads ‘zero waste’ messages across Wasteland Paradise disco-rave nights, Trash Tiki pop-up bars and its bar consultancy. The company shows how to repurpose ingredients normally thrown out from kitchens, bars and commercial businesses to reduce food waste, for example using leftover pineapples and turning them into a stock, ready to be used as a fruit juice alternative in cocktails.

Co-founder Kelsey Ramage says: “We wanted to inject fun into sustainability and get people involved. Sustainability can be a boring word, so we aim to make it about people who do good. All of our recipes are open-source so we can get as many people involved as possible.”

Pernod Ricard is taking a holistic approach in creating a more sustainable business, which also includes taking big steps to reduce overall water use and CO2 emissions by 50% by 2030, in line with the science-based targets initiative.

This wide-reaching agenda therefore represents a weighty version of voluntary producer responsibility which will feed into a global conversation of how best we take care of our planet. However, in order for the roadmap to make a real, demonstrative difference rather than just a nice PR story, it is vital that Pernod Ricard improves its environmental footing in all of its markets and not just the ones already switched on to an eco-message.

We know that the largest polluters are developing countries due to a plethora of problems including inadequate collection infrastructure and education. It is therefore important that the bold targets are reached by all of the group’s global markets.

The challenge now will be how a company of this size can develop a joined-up approach to continue to reduce waste, water and CO2 emissions. Let’s hope by 2030 we will be looking at a different world for all of the right reasons.


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