Today, the beverage giant releases a new, comprehensive sustainability framework, alongside a set of 2030 goals. It joins many of its industry peers in establishing sustainability strategies with clearly defined goals and science-based targets.
Whether you prefer toasting with a glass of Absolut® vodka, Jameson® Irish whiskey or Jacob’s Creek® wine, Pernod Ricard is happy to raise your spirits.
Today, the company is also raising its standards — releasing its first-ever, comprehensive sustainability framework, alongside a set of 2030 goals. It joins many of its industry peers in establishing sustainability strategies with clearly defined goals and science-based targets.
Spanning four distinct areas, the roadmap and goals are aligned with the provenance of the beverage giant’s vast portfolio of brands and extend through their production, packaging and consumption.
We caught up with Vanessa Wright, VP of Global Sustainability, based in Paris; and John Tran, Director of Sustainability and Responsibility, in New York — to learn more.
How did your new strategy come about and what was the process for developing it?
Vanessa Wright: There was a lot happening related to our environmental roadmap, but we were missing a big strategy. We needed something more comprehensive that was aligned with our business strategy. Our CEO, Alexandre Ricard, is committed to long-term growth of the business and having been recognized for our work by the UN Global Compact, we wanted to strengthen the link to the SDGs and expand it to have 2030 goals. It was also important to us make sure we were addressing global consumer issues.
The launch of the 2030 Sustainability & Responsibility Roadmap is a major milestone for us. We’ve done a thorough analysis across our business, consulting internal experts and external partners, to determine exactly where we are and where we can ambitiously and realistically be in 11 years. We’re rallying our affiliates and brands, all from different terroirs with different environmental and social issues to tackle, behind the goals we’ve established and incorporated into our strategic business plan.
What are some highlights of the new S&R Framework and your 2030 Sustainability Goals?
VW: Our new framework, called “Good times from a good place,” [is] intended to connect very closely to the vision of the company and our corporate strategy, “Créateurs de Convivialité.”
The provenance of the brands and the emotional place they come from are very important to us. This includes the communities of each of the brands, as well as the notion of being both passionate hosts and respectful guests, including as guests on this planet. We want to create a more convivial world without excess consumption of alcohol or natural ingredients.
In developing our framework, we identified our key material issues and structured them into four pillars: Nurturing our terroir, Valuing our people, Circular making and Responsible hosting.
Nurturing our terroir is about recognizing that for consumers, the provenance and quality of ingredients is important. Under this pillar, we have two key [elements]: biodiversity and regenerative farming models. Terroir is important to us because our natural ingredients have a localized nature. By 2030, 100 percent of our affiliates will have a strategic biodiversity initiative. Additionally, within eight owned vineyards, we want to pilot and learn from regenerative agriculture by 2025 in relation to wine-growing and cognac. We then want to share our learning with the rest of the industry.
Valuing our people focuses on creating moments of conviviality, not only among our own people but throughout the whole supply chain. We are committing to equality and future leadership. One of our goals is to achieve equal pay for men and women by 2022 among our 18,900 employees across 300 brands in 86 countries. We also recognize that jobs are changing fast, so we want to make sure that every employee has future-fit training every three years by 2030. Another component of our people pillar is shared knowledge and learning. We have a “Green Hustle” initiative that looks at how to create the bar of the future, encouraging bartenders to set up their bar differently to reduce waste. Our ambition is to reach 10,000 bartenders by 2030 through education and hands-on initiatives.
Circular making is about minimizing waste in the way we are producing our products. By 2025, 100 percent of the packaging of promotional items will be recyclable, compostable, reusable or bio-based, and we’ll have no single-use plastic at all in any promotional material — this includes ice buckets, umbrellas and all other promotional materials used in events.
We are also rethinking how we distribute our products. We want to have five pilot projects to develop circular models of distribution by 2030. We’re working with our teams in markets such as Brazil to develop glass-recycling initiatives, and we also have targets related to water use and carbon reduction. We’ve committed to a 50 percent reduction in carbon footprint intensity by 2030 and are currently developing a science-based target.
Responsible hosting means making sure we market and sell our products in the right way. We launched an initiative called Responsible Party in 2009, and have reached 400,000 students in 32 countries. For example, we partner with a prominent European study abroad program, Erasmus, and talk to students about drinking more water and making sure they are eating in between. We’ve done 600 parties, and 61 percent of students interviewed said it changed their behavior. By 2030, we want to roll this out to reach one million adults worldwide, including new markets outside of Europe. Also, every one of our 86 affiliates must have one program related to responsible drinking per market at scale, in partnership with an external party and externally evaluated. For example, understanding that many consumers are looking for a healthier lifestyle, we launched Cedars — a non-alcoholic gin — in the UK. In South Africa, we have a one-for-one program where, at every event we do, we give out a bottle of water with each drink.
What are some of the initiatives taking place in the US market?
John Tran: At Pernod Ricard USA, we’ve taken on a number of initiatives. One example is our collaboration with Loliware. They make Lolistraws, which have the look and feel of a regular plastic straw but are biodegradable and edible, so they have big environmental benefits. Over the past year, we have been helping them build up to scale and show that there are alternatives to single-use straws. In year one, we’ve gone to trade shows to get message out there. Now in year two, they have scaled their production and we will be much more focused on sampling more of these products, reaching out to different partners and accounts to show them these bio-based straws.
In terms of our own operations, in the US we primarily make wine, and given the number of vineyards and wineries that have had to close down due to wildfires in the past couple of years, we’ve seen the impact that climate change has had. One of the things we have wanted to do is build wineries that are future-ready. So, we’re making sure that our wineries receive California Sustainable Wine Growing Certification, given by the California Sustainable Wine Growing Alliance. In thinking about being more purposeful as a brand, we’re partnered with Sonoma Country Trails, which is part of the public park system, to ensure that land impacted by wildfires gets reforested.
We also have an internal carbon tax. We have implemented an impact-driven fund based off of our internal carbon tax rate ($100/ton). We apply this rate on office scope 1 and 2 emissions — this is the scope most relevant to us, because the US business is primarily composed of offices. The funds go to support both environmental and social impact projects that offset carbon and revitalize our communities. We believe that what we take should be given back to create net-positive results.
There are many more examples, but the idea that we are embedding purposeful brands within our business is the big headline for me. It's a big refresh for our business to make sure that our brands are communicating value while delivering value for the business. All these small changes actually have a really big impact on the business.
What do you think your work will offer the industry?
VW: We are addressing many of the same topics as other big players in the industry; however, in areas like biodiversity and regenerative agriculture within vineyards, we want to test new practices, learn and share what we learn with the industry.
When it comes to people, we want to reimagine the world of tomorrow in a way that is future-fit for employees and want to share this with the industry.
We hope our circular pilots will lead to new models of distribution. We also hope that our Responsible Parties will set an example for going above and beyond in raising awareness about responsible consumption.
How will this strategy translate into action?
VW: The strategy was built collectively and has a tremendous amount of buy-in.
There is a Sustainability and Responsibility leader in each country and they were all involved in the process; every CEO has a bonus-driven objective around the implementation of the strategy.
Each pillar has an owner. Nurturing Terroir owned by Operations; People owned by HR and Responsible Procurement; Circular is owned by Marketing and Operations; and Responsible Hosting is owned by the Public Affairs team. We are asking our affiliates in each of the 86 countries where we operate to put together a plan based on the strategy. We want to see mutual contribution between the corporate strategy and the brand. Our plan is achievable, and it’s going to make a real difference now and for the future.