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Alcohol Makers Set Fewer Sustainability Goals

Makers of alcoholic beverages have fewer public sustainability goals than firms in many other industries, according to a study by Green Research.

The review of goals set by 11 top beer, wine and spirits companies on the Forbes Global 2000 list found that all have between two and five public sustainability goals. The companies were Anheuser-Bush, Asahi, Brown-Forman, Carlsberg, Diageo, Fosters, Heineken, Kirin, MillerCoors, Molson Coors and SABMiller.

Most of the companies studied had five specific sustainability goals. But in previous Green Research studies, one banking company had seven goals, some food processing firms had ten to 15 goals, and computer manufacturers had as many as 16 to 18 per company. The laggards in the beverage study were Asahi and Fosters, most of whose goals had already expired and had yet to be replaced with fresh, forward-looking goals.

The study only counted goals that are likely to produce concrete sustainability benefits, excluding from its count more theoretical targets such as “build case studies that contribute to biodiversity.…” The study also excluded any retrospective goals, focusing only on goals in effect for the reporting year or beyond.

Green Research said the beverage industry is the only one in its series of benchmarking reports – which has also covered computers, telecommunications, banking, food processing and pharmaceuticals – in which the number of water-use targets is on par with the number of greenhouse gas goals. Out of the 44 specific goals set by the beverage makers in this study, 30 percent each were dedicated to water use and greenhouse gas emissions.

Green Research found that the companies’ goals illustrate very different approaches. All of Kirin’s goals, for example, relate to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors, however, take a “portfolio approach,” with each of their goals addressing a different environmental issue.

“Just because a company has not announced a specific goal for a particular sustainability issue, doesn’t mean that it’s not working on, talking about and making progress on that issue,” Green Research founder and principal analyst David Schatsky said. As an example the study cited Kirin, which lacks public water-use goals but does track and report on its freshwater use and wastewater discharge.  In 2009 Kirin achieved a 36 percent reduction in water use intensity compared to its 1990 level.

“But since goals signal intent, companies should consider the message their goals are sending,” Schatsky added.

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