‘Lighter means less valuable’: Diageo tackles sustainability misconceptions

By Ben Bouckley

- Last updated on GMT

‘Lighter means less valuable’: Diageo tackles sustainability misconceptions
Diageo says that realising its new vision for sustainable premium packaging is a challenge, especially given “the perception among consumers that lighter means less valuable”.

Within its first ‘Sustainable Packaging Guidelines’ released yesterday, the drinks giant defined sustainable packaging as a choice with the “lowest possible environmental footprint...ensuring the required functionality to protect, deliver and present our product and brands”.

Announcing the report, David Gosnell, Diageo’s president for global supply and procurement, said: “This is an important milestone that will ensure a consistent approach to developing new packaging and reviewing existing packs.

The guidelines will not only help us meet our stretching sustainable packaging targets for 2015 but also support our engagement with customers and consumers – and further embed our position as corporate leaders in environmental sustainability.”

Diageo uses glass, paper, board, plastic and aluminium in packaging, and it said it was exploring ways of improving pack designs with less material, while also improving quality and appearance.

Improved impact resistance

Glass comprises 90 per cent of packaging used, and Diageo cited its new Smirnoff Ice bottle design launched in Brazil, which it said had improved impact resistance and a lower weight.

Rolling-out the new design meant Diageo (whose brands also include Guinness, Baileys, Johnnie Walker) had been able to cut glass usage by 2,500 tonnes (17.5 per cent less), since its introduction, the firm said, with a resultant CO2 reduction of 1500 tonnes.

“In a typical year, we will aim to eliminate a further 14,000 metric tonnes of glass, resulting in a CO2 reduction of 8,500 tonnes,”​ the company said.

Overall, Diageo said its overall ambition was to cut the average unit weight of product packaging 10 per cent by 2015.

But the drinks giant said it valued its brands to the extent that it did not wish to simply ‘lightweight’ packaging for the sake of it, but wanted to ensure robustness.

Diageo said: “This way, we don’t, for example, increase the number of breakages in transport because the packaging is too fragile.

“In fact, if our packaging can have a second life and be re-used, we may even consider ‘heavyweighting’ in certain circumstances.”

Biodegradable component aim

Another Diageo target is aiming to ensure that 100 per cent of its packaging designs were reusable, recyclable or suitable for waste management practices by 2015.

The company said it would also actively pursue biodegradable or lower environmental impact components as alternatives to existing components – such as closures or outer cartons – where recycling thereof was difficult.

More than one third of glass it used was from recycled sources, Diageo said, while up to 70 per cent of board in outer cases was recycled and its cans contained up to 50 per cent recycled metal.

Diageo said it was targeting a 20 per cent increase in recycled materials content across its packaging portfolio by 2015, to reach a 40 per cent figure, “working with suppliers and advancing technologies that enable heightened amounts of recycled content to be effectively used”.

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