As Supply Sustainability Director at one of the world’s largest producers of spirits and beers, Dr. Kirstie McIntyre’s remit is to create and lead transformational programmes which drive Diageo’s environmental sustainability strategy. Speaking exclusively to Glass Worldwide Dr. McIntyre discussed the role of glass packaging in today’s climate and explained how Diageo is at the forefront of changes that the glass industry needs – and the world wants. The full version of this article appears in the Nov/Dec issue that has been mailed globally and is also now available free of charge in the digital archive*.


GW: How successful was the pilot project by Diageo, Glass Futures and Encirc earlier this year to create the most sustainable Scotch whisky bottles ever?

It was a successful collaboration with glass manufacturer Encirc and Glass Futures. We used biofuel-powered furnaces to reduce the carbon footprint of the bottle-making process by up to 90%.

The trial produced 173,000 Black & White bottles, using 100% recycled glass, making the batch the most environmentally-friendly ever produced for a Scotch whisky brand.

The successful pilot project to pioneer low carbon glass bottles illustrates the collaborative approach Glass Futures strive to accelerate, working across the total supply chain, symbiotically creating value.

GW: What are the plans for that project moving forward?

We are a member of Glass Futures with a commitment to a 10-year strategic partnership and we look forward to focusing on shared goals of making glass net-zero. Diageo’s support for Glass Futures is part of our commitment to transforming packaging sustainability. Last year we announced our Society 2030: Spirit of Progress sustainability plan for a decade of action to tackle climate change, which includes ambitious environmental goals such as net zero emissions from all direct operations by 2030 and reducing our scope-three supply chain emissions by 50% by the same year.

GW: Are there other examples of recent product launches or redesigns that illustrate Diageo’s approach towards sustainable use of glass packaging?

We are constantly exploring opportunities to further improve the sustainability for our existing glass packaging. An example of a recent bottle redesign is our Talisker [whisky] bottles where we increased the percentage of recycled glass content from 28% to 41% and reduced the glass packaging weight by 6% – meaning that we are using less glass, and less fuel to transport.

GW: What was the motivation for Diageo recently joining Glass Futures as a corporate member?

Our values at Diageo revolve around ensuring that we “Do business the right way”; a critical part of achieving this is our Grain to Glass environmental sustainability strategy. We commit to partnering with suppliers such as Glass Futures to collaborate in bringing innovative and sustainable solutions to our consumers and to the market.

GW: Traditionally, the beverage alcohol sector has been a highly valued customer for many of the world’s glass container producers. What factors could affect this relationship in the future?

Our products have been in glass over 250 years and it is currently our format of choice but if the industry does not decarbonise we will need to look for alternative low carbon formats.

GW: What is Diageo’s approach to strengths and weaknesses assessment of the different materials available to package its beverages?

We use life cycle analysis techniques to assess the environmental impact of different materials when evaluating packaging materials. However, there are many other important factors of consideration in this type of assessment, such as consumer expectations and the response from the market. We also need to consider supply chain constraints and capabilities.

GW: Approximately how many glass bottles/what tonnage is purchased by the global Diageo organisation every day?

In our last financial year, we purchased 1,170,060 tonnes of glass packaging material. Which is 82.4% of our global packaging material.

GW: Generally, how do Diageo’s customers perceive glass compared to alternative packaging?

For our consumers, we see a rise in reducing, reusing and recycling of all types of packaging, from glass to plastic, across all food and beverage categories. As well as considering the impact of their choices in terms of energy and water used, transport and waste. Consumers are motivated by what matters most to them through personal experience, such as pollution and packaging. Which is why we are committed to continually improving the sustainability of our brands and communicating their sustainability credentials in clear, compelling ways.

GW: What process is observed to determine the preferred packaging type for new and existing brands?

Sustainability is at the forefront of our decision-making process when we are redesigning or designing new packaging. Through our internal processes we assess the packaging of the new or existing brands that we have, and we will design the changes that we know our industry needs and the world wants. This means keeping the essence of our brands as well as making sure that we are taking the most sustainable approach possible.

GW: Does a glassmaker’s commitment to reducing its own carbon footprint influence the bottle purchasing process?

Absolutely, as part of our responsible sourcing guidelines and our Partnering with Suppliers standard which sets out the minimum social, ethical and environmental compliance standards we require suppliers to follow as part of their contract with us, as well as aspirations for our long-term partners to work towards. We select suppliers that match our commitment to creating top-quality products in a sustainable and ethical manner. As a member of the Race to Zero commitment where we are part of the largest alliance committed to achieving net zero carbon by 2050, the carbon reduction commitments of our suppliers is essential to our net zero journey. We urge everyone to join Race to Zero and set bold science-based targets for carbon reduction across their business. By working together, we can accelerate the shift to allow carbon economy and create the action needed for a sustainable future.

GW: How important to Diageo is a glassworks’ proximity to its bottling facilities and why?

Our preference would be to have the two situated as close as possible, as from both an environmental impact and cost perspective this is most favourable. However, we recognise that in order to find the right capacity and capability we sometimes have to look further afield.

GW: What measures should glassmakers consider to dovetail with Diageo’s environmental philosophies and how important is Glass Futures in coordinating such activities?

Our environmental philosophies focus on being sustainable from the growing of our agricultural raw materials through to the consumer enjoyment of our brands. The three key elements are: accelerating to a low carbon world, preserving water for life and being sustainable by design. Glassmakers across the world should aim to grow and develop innovative glass solutions that address more than one aspect of environmental sustainability through a wider and more holistic approach to tackling the global climate crisis and waste issues that we face. Through bold actions and strong environmentally sustainable philosophies, glassmakers can help make the use of glass more sustainable and build more circular economies.

As a member of Glass Futures, our work together is important – not only developing sustainable glass production processes and products, but also in inspiring and leading a global shift in research and development of sustainable glass products.

GW: What can you tell us about Diageo’s Society 2030: Spirit of Progress’ ten-year sustainability action plan and how Glass Futures will assist?

We recently announced our Society 2030: Spirit of Progress sustainability plan for a decade of action to tackle climate change, which includes ambitious environmental goals such as being net zero emissions from all direct operations by 2030. To lead our business through the next decade, we have set ourselves 25 goals which are aligned to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. We are passionate about the role our brands play in celebrating life the world over. And as a global company, we know we have a responsibility to build partnerships and lead with innovative organisations such as Glass Futures as part of our commitment to transforming packaging sustainability.

GW: Did you receive a good response to the Diageo Sustainable Solutions programme, featuring the ‘sustainable bottle challenge’ last year?

We received a great response to the Diageo Sustainable Solutions programme last year, with 379 applications received in total, and 28 glass applications taken through from these to our internal selection process. The level of interest was impressive for a programme in the first wave of a three-phase rollout. A rigorous process was undertaken, with experts within Diageo assessing each application and asking some of these companies to pitch their ideas to us. From there, we have proceeded with a wide range of exciting and novel technology companies, and in glass we are looking forward to seeing the development of technologies at the forefront of technological innovation.

GW: What importance is put on decoration of glass bottles in the overall concept?

We aim to always prioritise the sustainable aspects of our glass bottles over the decoration of our products. However, we do put heavy importance in ensuring that the essence of our famous brands is still captured and reflected in the packaging of our products.

GW: How would you summarise Diageo’s sustainability plan?We are committed to delivering a positive impact on society everywhere we live, work, source and sell. We will achieve our ambition by ensuring our people, partners and communities can thrive through Society 2030: Spirit of Progress.

Our 2030 plan encompasses three core pillars:

• Drink Positive
We want to change the way the world drinks for the better, celebrating moderation and continuing to address alcohol-related harm, expanding our programmes that tackle underage drinking, drink-driving and binge drinking.

• Champion Inclusion and Diversity
We believe the most inclusive and diverse culture makes a better business and a better world so we will champion inclusion and diversity across our businesses, with our partners and communities to celebrate diversity and help shape a tolerant society.

• Pioneer Grain to Glass Sustainability
We are committed to preserving the natural resources on which we all depend. Working in partnership to tackle climate change, water stress and biodiversity loss, and helping to create a more sustainable world.

Further Information: 

Diageo: www.diageo.com
Glass Futures: www.glass-futures.org
Encirc: www.encirc360.com

* The full version of this article appears in the Nov/Dec issue that has been mailed globally. The digital version of this issue can also currently be read free of charge in its entirety alongside back copies in the Digital Archive (sponsored by FIC) at https://www.glassworldwide.co.uk/Digital-Issues. To receive the paper copy, all future issues and a free copy of the Who’s Who / Annual Review 2021-22 yearbook, subscribe now at https://www.glassworldwide.co.uk/subscription-choice

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