For the first instalment of Grant Thornton’s Sustainability Innovation Interview Series, we spoke to Lisa Cashin, Communications and Engagement Manager at Diageo Ireland.

We learn about the progress the company has made on their 10-year ESG action plan, the sustainability trends they are seeing in their industry and what excites them about the future.

An Interview with Lisa Cashin

Diageo Ireland has made significant progress in implementing our ‘Grain to Glass’ sustainability strategy, a key pillar of our wider 10-year ESG action plan Society 2030: Spirit of Progress.

We are particularly proud of our three-year, farm-based regenerative agriculture pilot programme.  This seeks to highlight opportunities for reducing the carbon emissions of barley production, in addition to other positive environmental outcomes, by working in harmony with the natural environment. 

Diageo also plans to develop Ireland’s first purpose-built carbon neutral brewery on a greenfield site in Newbridge, Co. Kildare. Powered with 100% renewable energy, the state-of-the-art brewery will use the latest process technology to minimise overall energy and water consumption, enabling the brewery to avoid up to 15,000 metric tons of carbon emissions annually.

‘Society 2030: Spirit of Progress’ is our 10-year ESG action plan to help create a more inclusive and sustainable world. Our priorities in this plan reflect the most material issues affecting our company. They are to promote positive drinking; champion inclusion and diversity; and pioneer grain-to-glass sustainability.

Diageo has deliberately set out to support our colleagues in establishing new skills and abilities related to climate change and sustainability. We have partnered with Oxford Saïd Business School to educate 600 of our senior leaders on sustainability, making us one of the first companies to advance a sustainability agenda by combining its industry experience with the perspective of a world-class business school.

The 12-week learning programme educates on the theory behind climate change in a business setting and the actions they can take to achieve Diageo’s sustainability goal.

Many exciting things are happening on Diageo’s sustainability journey and it’s hard to pick just one. But certainly I’m looking forward to further collaboration with our wide range of partners to achieve common goals, including our continued partnership with barley suppliers, farmers and agronomists on our regenerative agriculture pilot.

quote marksEngaging the entire supply chain in sustainable activities

Diageo prioritises sustainability in its supply chain. We have a commitment to reducing our scope 3 emissions by 50% by 2030. Most of the company’s packaging is already recyclable, but we're working towards a goal of 100% recyclable, reusable or compostable packaging by 2030. We are focused on:

  • Delivering a 10% reduction in packaging weight
  • Increasing the percentage of recycled content of packaging to 60% and ensuring 100% of packaging is widely recyclable, reusable or compostable
  • Achieving 40% average recycled content in plastic bottles by 2025 and 100% by 2030
  • Ensuring 100% of plastics are designed to be widely recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025

windmills in a field

Leveraging Technology to Achieve a Green Agenda

Technology has a major role to play in making all businesses more sustainable. Diageo’s Society 2030: Spirit of Progress action plan has already harnessed the power of technology through innovations in packaging, brewing, transportation and farming. Check out some of these innovations below.

Our new state-of-the-art brewery powered with 100% renewable energy will harness the latest process technology to minimise overall energy and water consumption, enabling the brewery to avoid up to 15,000 metric tons of carbon emissions annually.

A key component of the pilot’s first year was the baselining of carbon emissions and soil carbon stocks across the 44 participating farms. This technique had never before been done with a specific focus on barley production in Ireland.

We provided farmers with a digital management system to manage their crops and record their practices using technologies such as satellite monitoring, yield monitoring and cover crop assessments. With a wealth of data, farming initiatives and practices can be tailored to get the most out of each crop while having the least impact on the environment.

This exciting initiative invests in new technologies and partnerships with start-ups to advance more sustainable practices across the full lifecycle of our brands.

Our first wave of challenges attracted more than 300 applicants, and it has already resulted in a trial with Exxergy and Ardagh, who are examining ways to make glass thinner without affecting its strength and shape.

The second wave has resulted in exciting new solutions for sustainable container design, circular models, glass bottle decoration and sustainable packs for e-commerce.