Vodka brand Absolut is on track to be a carbon neutral product by 2030 and is looking into securing B Corp status.
Anna Schreil, production director and vice-president of operations at The Absolut Company, told The Spirits Business that the firm is “looking into” B Corp certification for Absolut, and its Kahlúa and Malibu liqueur brands.
The Absolut Company is part of French drinks conglomerate Pernod Ricard, which has a sustainability and responsibility roadmap for 2030, called Good Times from a Good Place.
The company currently has no brands with B Corp accreditation. Last November, Diageo-owned cream liqueur Baileys became the largest spirit brand to achieve B Corp certification.
Schreil spoke ahead of the release of The Absolut Company’s Sustainability Report FY21/22, which detailed the firm’s sustainability efforts and goals for the financial year ending June 2022.
The Absolut Company expects partnerships and green funding to ‘make or break’ the ability to reach carbon reduction goals, the report said.
Pernod Ricard, which also owns Jameson Irish whiskey and Beefeater gin, is aiming to reach carbon neutrality by 2050. There are different timelines for each brand, Schreil explained, with Absolut having a “more ambitious target” of 2030.
The Absolut distillery in Sweden emits 98% fewer emissions than the average distillery, the company said. The majority of the energy used for Absolut’s production is powered by electricity.
Schreil said the aim is for Absolut’s production to be fossil free by 2025. “We still have a little bit of fossil fuel for parts of our distillery,” she explained. “We have a distillery built in 1906 with equipment from 1921 which is still partly powered by fossil fuel but we will get rid of that.
“We need to ensure accessibility of that green fuel in the long term,” she added, with contracts with suppliers already secured.
The company is also working on a paper bottle format for Malibu, according to the report.
Since 2019, Absolut has been working in partnership with Paboco to develop a fully recyclable, 100% bio-based wood fibre paper bottle.
“Over the past year, we’ve taken significant steps towards our goal and have conducted successful tests using Absolut Vodka original as the wet goods,” the report said.
Last February, Absolut Vodka released its 2021 edition bottle made with 60% recycled glass – the brand’s most sustainable design to date.
In November, the company said Absolut will become the first global spirit brand to use a partly hydrogen energy-fired furnace to make its glass bottles.
It marked a major change to the brand’s production across all of its markets worldwide, with the new furnace to be used from the second half of 2023.
Absolut is “looking into further reduction of the weight of the glass to reduce the impacts of our packaging”, Schreil said.
She added the company is “exploring effective materials” for its brands and is “working to reduce our usage of virgin plastic”.
Pernod Ricard is also developing a natural fibre-based screw cap for Absolut bottles, which is set to launch in 2023.
The firm worked in partnership with Glatfelter Corporation, a global supplier of engineered materials, Swedish-based Blue Ocean Closure and plastic packaging company Alpha Group on the project.
Beyond the 2030 goals, Schreil said the company is looking ahead to new targets, highlighting a move to carbon positive as an “interesting area”. She also noted that the company must look into “closing more loops” and have “broader circularity”.
In 2022, Absolut launched its updated Sustainable Wheat Programme, focusing on biodiversity, climate, water resources and soil health. The programme aims to minimise environmental impact while enhancing sustainability in wheat production.
Schreil said the company aims to encourage approximately 400 farmers to practice or apply sustainable practices through the programme.
Malibu is also supporting 500 coconut farmers with the aim of increasing their income by an average of 15% and increasing annual farm yield by an average of 20% by 2024.
Furthermore, the report noted that 100% of the coffee used to make Kahlúa is sourced through the Coffee for Good project, which sources Arabica coffee from Mexican farming communities.
Pernod Ricard has set a target to have at least 25% recycled plastic across its packaging by 2025, with Malibu already reaching this goal with bottles made with 30% recycled plastic.
Malibu has also partnered with Plastic Bank to support a plastic recycling ecosystem in the Philippines, the world’s third-largest contributor to ocean plastic, it said.
The report noted that the company is also supporting the LGBTQIA+ community through its Safe Spaces initiative, collaborating with bars to create welcoming environments for the community.
Pernod Ricard plans to pilot the initiative in Mexico in 2023.
The vodka category faces the key challenge of “maintaining relevance” as the leading white spirits choice for consumers as drinkers explore other categories, according to an Absolut executive.
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Author: Nicola Carruthers