Can The Alcohol Industry Pave The Way To A Greener Future?

Can The Alcohol Industry Pave The Way To A Greener Future?

Can The Alcohol Industry Pave The Way To A Greener Future?

May 2024, by Ben Davis

In today’s increasingly eco-conscious world, sustainability has become a critical factor influencing consumer perceptions and support of brands. From environmentally friendly production practices to ethical sourcing, consumers pay closer attention to the sustainability efforts of the brands they support. Our Say Do Sustainability Study (SDSS) has revealed UK consumers’ attitudes and perceptions of alcohol brands’ efforts to mitigate their negative environmental and social impacts.

Social and Environmental challenges facing the alcohol industry

The alcohol industry faces pressing sustainability challenges that are influencing consumer perceptions and support for some alcohol brands. Water scarcity is one of the industry’s primary challenges. High water consumption throughout the brewing or distillation process, farming crops such as barley or grapes, and cooling necessitate water-saving measures to avoid water conflicts with other stakeholders in local resources and to avoid scrutiny from ethical consumers and activists. To ensure this happens, Alcohol brands must be accountable for their usage and transparently report this in annual impact reports. Similarly, the alcohol industry has high energy usage levels, with long supply chains that use energy for refrigeration, brewing, farming, transportation and packaging to ensure that measures are taken and shown to limit energy usage too.

SDSS: Industry action, brands impact and consumer perceptions

SDSS shows consumers hold high expectations for the role of government, brands, and organisations in creating positive social and environmental change. They are acutely aware of the imminent and real climate crisis, which engages them, makes them active in conversations, and makes them want to make a positive impact with their purchasing power. Despite the challenges, this hopeful generation effectively wields their buying power and influence for good.​

With ethical consumers having an ever-growing influence on buying patterns and brands’ success, alcohol brands must address the aforementioned challenges and ensure they effectively communicate their efforts and positive change to consumers to remain competitive in their market.

SDSS has shown in some cases that despite brands creating a more sustainable brand offering, introducing new bottle designs made up of up to 85% recycled glass or setting targets such as having fully recyclable packaging by 2030 or achieving Net Zero by 2040, brands still face the challenge of conveying their commitments to their customers in a clear, compelling, and effective way.

Alcohol brands that have scored highest, including Johnnie Walker and BrewDog, have ensured consistency in their messaging and have successfully demonstrated their support for social causes and communicated their efforts towards sustainability. Both brands have committed to becoming Net Zero and are working hard to reduce emissions across their supply chains. BrewDog has been proactive, launching its ‘BrewDog Tomorrow’ initiative, which focuses on utilising wind energy, prioritising effective waste management, and promoting the circular economy. By sourcing all UK electricity from wind power, transforming spent grain into green energy, and introducing electric vehicles for delivery, BrewDog demonstrates to consumers its seriousness about making positive change, and SDSS shows that the messaging they have used to communicate this to consumers has been successful.

However, this has not been the case for all the brands in the SDSS Index. The Absolut Company is an example of this, with very limited publicly available information on their positive change initiative, creating the perception that they are not fully committed to these values. Other brands like Diageo and Gordons are already making significant efforts towards sustainability targets and for social initiatives however, consumers haven’t quite received the message.

Get in touch to find out more

By considering these insights, organisations and brands can create strategies that emphasise sustainability efforts more clearly and appeal more to ethical consumers, who will be encouraged to support brands that align their actions and claims in this area.

To learn more about our findings and how we can help your brand or organisation make a meaningful impact, explore the details of our latest Say Do Sustainability Study on our website and put some time in on the form below to talk to the team at MM-Eye.