Ethical Performance Interview A Case of Rum and Reason

Mar 4, 2014 1:00 PM ET

Ethical Performance talks to Dave Howson, CSR and sustainability director of Bacardi, the world’s largest privately-owned drinks company

Starting out as a warehouse manager 15 years ago Dave Howson, now global director of sustainability at drinks giant Bacardi, says that
sustainability is in the DNA of the company: “The company was founded in response to an overflow of molasses in Cuba, from which a much smoother variety of rum was blended. Even old bourbon barrels were used to age the rum, so we were recycling 152 years ago.”

The world’s largest privately-owned drinks company has achieved significant progress in energy and water reduction: “We have 28 distilleries around the world and there has been a lot of activity in these areas for a long time, even prior to those activities becoming part of our CR platform.”

Howson is proud of the company’s water waste reduction of 54% - “an outstanding achievement” and reducing greenhouse gases by 25% - “a great job”.

The company has recently extended its sustainability commitment with the Good Spirited initiative. “This sets our sustainability goals right across the business, not just focusing on energy and water,” explained Howson. “One area we’re focusing on is packaging. We have a sustainable packaging manual for our employees and we’re looking at reducing the weight of glass packaging and the impact of the business on the environment.”

Setting the bar particularly high is the pledge to responsibly and sustainably sourced sugarcane. As a board member of Bonsucro, the sustainable sugarcane not-for-profit, Howson is all too aware the level of difficulty and challenge presented by a commitment to 40% sourced by 2017 and 100% by 2022: “It is stretching but we’ve made a public commitment which will send out a signal to other drinks companies."

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