Pernod Ricard distills sustainability from packaging

By Rick Lingle in Sustainable Packaging on May 29, 2019

Global packaged spirits company concentrates on recycling, waste reduction and other sustainable improvements for glass bottles and more.

 

Formed in 1975 when two French companies merged—Pernod was founded in 1805 and Ricard in 1932—Pernod Ricard has built over the past decades an exceptional group of premium international and regional spirits brands known globally from Absolut Vodka to Beefeater to Chivas Regal to select others scattered across an alphabet of iconic products.

Now the company intends to aggressively tighten up the sustainability of an expansive portfolio across various aspects that include packaging, all part of a directive to make a meaningful, positive difference allied with United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In simplest terms, the company plans by 2025 to ban all promotional items made from single-use plastic and ensure that 100% of its packaging will be recyclable, compostable, reusable or bio-based. Additionally, by 2030 the Group will pilot five new circular ways of distributing wine and spirits and help increase recycling rates in its top 10 largest markets with low recycling levels.

The sustainable movement links directly to the company’s past in a personal way: founder Paul Ricard was a philanthropist who valued his employees, the environment and communities.

“We know that our customers have now come to expect our brands to be responsible and respectful of the environment—values that have been at the very heart of our business since its inception,” states Vanessa Wright, VP sustainability & responsibility. “These 2030 commitments provide us with a focused framework across our business in helping to address some of the biggest sustainability issues, so consumers can enjoy our products in a convivial and sustainable way.”

Wright responds to Packaging Digest’s questions about the program.

 

Can you provide specific examples of how the company has improved the sustainability of its packaging?

Wright: Following are recent examples of packaging improvements:

  • We reduced the weight of our Altos Tequila bottle by 22%.
  • We increased the recycled content in Absolut Vodka bottles to 43%.
  • We are in the process of removing Martell Cognac gift boxes in distribution to bars and restaurants.
  • We have bio-based caps in Brazil, reusable bottles in India and 99% of our packaging across markets is recyclable according to CITEO and ADELPHE criteria. We do not have compostable packaging yet.

 

What’s the hierarchy of the avenues to sustainability—and are these mutually exclusive?

Wright: Our hierarchy in order of priority is: reusable, recyclable, compostable and bio-based. However, they are not mutually exclusive. For example, packaging can be reusable as well as recyclable.

The company increased the recycled content in Absolut Vodka's glass bottles to 43%.

 

How much effort will this involve beyond current policies and processes?

Wright: It will require efforts in a number of areas including:

Researching and developing new materials.

Changing the mindset of marketers across brands so they rethink the way they design their packaging. Our new strategy provides clearer direction, which we will reinforce through awareness and training programs, and a marketing-led packaging task force.

Partnering with dedicated organizations to explore innovative ways of designing and distributing our products.

Improving the way in which we measure our progress through circular economy indicators.

 

What metrics or measurable indicators will be used to gauge progress and success?

Wright: Leading indicators for measuring our progress include…

  • Percent of packaging that is recyclable, reusable, compostable or bio-based;
  • Percent of recycled content in glass and plastic;
  • Percent of cardboard certified;
  • Percent of new packaging achieving reduction according to life-cycle assessment;
  • Number of markets with significant actions improving recycling;
  • Percent of single-use plastic at point of sale.

 

Next: LCA, single-use plastics, glass bottles and more

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Rick Lingle

Rick Lingle is senior technical editor of Packaging Digest. He’s been a packaging media journalist since 1985 specializing in food, beverage and plastic markets. He has a chemistry degree and has worked in food industry R&D for Standard Brands/Nabisco and the R.T. French Co. Reach him at [email protected] or 630-481-1426.

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