Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business
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Seeing the beer glass half-full

February 2015

Debbie Read, head of CR at Molson Coors, has worked for the international brewer for seven years. Best known for its brands Coors, Carling, Cobra and Miller, the brewer has changed a lot in the last two years, triggered by the purchase of Staropramen, central Europe’s leading beer brand. Read tells Ethical Performance about its global approach to CSR.


Where do you start with a global remit?
We have 2020 targets which are umbrella targets for the whole organisation. This is what we’re aiming for: global targets but with local ways to reach them. We always believe that people on the ground know what’s best.
For example, we have a global packaging target of a 6% weight reduction. This has its challenges in that some markets don’t want to move from aluminum to glass. We do both in the UK because it is a more stable market. Central Europe is still in a state of flux from can and glass and then Canada is very much glass focused. Consumer perceptions of different packaging types come into play too.

What is Beer Print?
It is our way of engaging people and is applicable to consumers in whatever country they’re in.
Every time a beer is picked up there is a beer print left behind and wherever the company brews and sells its beer it leaves a beer print on its communities, on the environment and on its business. It makes it real to people and relevant to their role. It helps guide purchasing decisions, company goals, community partnerships, employee engagement and profit. It helps drive our business.

Biggest achievement so far?
Waste has been a great success for us. We are now zero waste to landfill. Initially in the UK we didn’t know how we were going to do it. But we hit the target by 2012, so big audacious targets can be invigorating. We forced people to be innovative.
For example, cross contamination issues mean that spilt grain can’t be used as animal feed so we found a supplier who can use it as a composting agent.
There are waste brewing products which are organic and can go for cattle feed. Waste yeast goes for manufacturing Marmite and the pet food industry.

What about water stewardship?
Water is a big focus for us – after all without great water you can’t make great beer and most beer is brewed locally. However, we did review our water targets to make them – world class standards – only applicable to water stressed areas [its original goal to reduce its water intensity by 20% with respect to 2011 levels, changed to 15%]. This doesn’t apply to Burton on Trent, for example, as the water table is high. Yet in neighbouring Tadcaster if it doesn’t rain for 6-8 weeks in the Yorkshire Dales its water table starts to go down and it struggles to get enough water. Us saving water in Burton isn’t going to help Tadcaster, so having a 20% arbitrary target doesn’t make much sense because you can’t move water around.
We encourage people to view our targets as a local issue and set local targets on them.

And carbon?
Carbon is easier to quantify because there are cost implications but it’s difficult to engage people in. People don’t tend to understand it. Our target is a 15% in emissions by 2020. So we’re focusing on processes and efficiencies, for example in Burton we saved £75m by moving from cartonboard as packaging to ready printed shrink film. It even looks better on the shelf!
We’ve also just completed a new energy centre which boasts a 6.5% carbon reduction. It was a plant that used older energy so we re-streamlined processes replacing boilers, refrigeration etc.

Binge drinking often hits the headlines. What are you doing about responsible consumption?
Externally, we’ve developed lower alcohol alternatives eg Carling Zest and Carling Cooler, and internally, we ask employees to be brand champions and to promote the idea of consumption in moderation. Employees are urged to be responsible ambassadors and we are currently relaunching our employee alcohol training. We also work in partnership with Drink Aware.

In which other areas do you collaborate?
Sustaining the beer industry means keeping the right to advertise. So we are active with the Portman Group and always abide by the strict advertising codes.
We work closely at roundtables with other brewers, after all we’re all facing the same challenges. Best Practice is key in markets where we want to expand and we aim to share best practice with our competitors. We only started doing this last year. There are industry ‘hot spots’ – for example countries that don’t have a minimum age with regards to the purchase of alcohol, countries with different drink-drive limits and markets that don’t have advertising legislation – where we’re working with the likes of Diageo, Pierre Ricard and ABI.

If you could influence one major thing in sustainable business practice, what would it be?
I’d love for consumers to see sustainability as something they actually want. That is was cool and trendy rather than worthy and governance oriented. Our consumers are in downtime. They don’t want CR/sustainability messaging. They need to be able to make informed choices. We have a role in making it cool rather than an obligation.

And finally, your favourite tipple?
A Cobra come a Friday night. 

Global | responsible drinking


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