Diageo falls short in 2013 against wastewater polluting power target

By Ben BOUCKLEY contact

- Last updated on GMT

Diageo CEO Ivan Menezes
Diageo CEO Ivan Menezes
Johnnie Walker distiller Diageo admits that it fell off-track in 2013 against a 2015 target to cut the polluting power of wastewater by 60% but insists it is still on target to meet the goal.

Revealing the figures in its 2013 Sustainability & Responsibility Report​, Diageo explains that it bases this 60% figure on biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) measured against a 2007 baseline.

Defending its progress against the 2015 target, the world’s largest alcoholic drinks firm said that despite the increase in fiscal year 2013 (which ran until June 30):“There have been several encouraging developments which we believe will keep us on course to meet our 2015 target”.

“At our Cameronbridge distillery in Scotland, which was responsible for 60% of our global BOD in 2012, BOD output fell by 12% in the last quarter of 2013, during the commissioning of our new bioenergy plant,”​ the company added.

We asked Diageo whether the increase in BOD in wastewater discharged in 2012/23 was principally due to the Cameronbridge site, but a spokeswoman said the increase was "principally due to increased production across our distilling business including but not solely Cameronbridge"​.

"Our new bioenergy plant at Cameronbridge...expects to reduce BOD by up to 90% - which we believe will keep us on course to meet our 2015 target,"​ she added.

Diageo’s ‘flagship’ green distillery

Introducing Diageo's report, CEO Ivan Menezes said: "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."

Figures in Diageo’s report reveal that, in terms of waste water polluting power by region, BOD/kt (per kilotonne) fell across all regions bar Europe between 2007 and 2013; BOD measures the amount of oxygen microorganisms need to consume to decompose organic matter.

The increase that muddies Diageo’s sustainability waters, so to speak, is confined to Western Europe between 2012 and 2013, where BOD/kt rose from 28,438 to 33,690 year-on-year.

Cameronbrige – Johnnie Walker, Bell’s, Smirnoff, Tanqueray and Gordon’s are distilled there – is Diageo’s ‘flagship’ distillery for its sustainability drive, and the firm recently invested £65m ($100m) there to combine biomass combustion, anaerobic digestion and water recovery.

$100m investment to meet target

The firm expects a new bio-energy facility will generate up to 30MW of energy – meeting 95% of the site’s energy needs – while new systems can recover up to 30% of the water used in distilling.

In terms of improving water quality, Diageo said:“We estimate that this plant will reduce Diageo’s total volume of wastewater discharged (as measured by BOD) by 55%.”

Diageo is also commissioning a new effluent treatment plant at Douala in Cameroon – where the firm makes Malta Guinness and other brands – and expects to reduce BOD there by 90% in 2014.

Wastewater polluting power aside, Diageo claims it is on track to achieve its remaining 2015 water and environmental targets, which are also set against 2007 baseline figures.

Carbon emissions fell 4.1% in 2013, there was 1.5% improvement against a 30% water efficiency goal, and a 7% advance against a goal to cut water waste at water-stressed sites by 50%.

There was a 53.4% gain in terms of cutting waste to landfill progress, a 1.2% improvement in reducing average packaging weight by 10%, a 2% gain in increasing average recycled content across all packaging to 42% and 0.2% progress against a goal to make all packaging 100% recyclable.

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